Lee Bowers was born in Dallas in 1925. He served in the US Navy during the Second World War. On his return to the United States he attended Hardin Simmons University and Southern Methodist University. After finishing his education Bowers he worked as a self-employed builder. Later he was employed as a signalman by the Union Terminal Company.
On 22nd November, 1963, Bowers was working in a high tower overlooking the Dealey Plaza in Dallas. He had a good view of the presidential motorcade and was able to tell the Warren Commission about the three cars that entered the forbidden area just before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Bowers also reported seeing two men standing near the picket fence on the Grassy Knoll. He added: "These men were the only two strangers in the area. The others were workers whom I knew." Bowers said the two men were there while the shots were fired.
Mark Lane interviewed Bowers for his book Rush to Judgment (1966): "At the time of the shooting, in the vicinity of where the two men I have described were, there was a flash of light or, as far as I am concerned, something I could not identify, but there was something which occurred which caught my eye in this immediate area on the embankment. Now, what this was, I could not state at that time and at this time I could not identify it, other than there was some unusual occurrence - a flash of light or smoke or something which caused me to feel like something out of the ordinary had occurred there."
On 9th August, 1966, Lee Bowers was killed when his car left the road and crashed into a concrete abutment in Midlothian, Texas. Robert J. Groden later reported "Lee Bowers was heading west here on highway sixty-seven heading from Midlothian down to Cleburne and according to an eyewitness he was driven off the road by a black car. Drove him into this bridge abutment. He didn't die immediately, he held on for four hours and during that time he was talking to the ambulance people and told them that he felt he had been drugged when he stopped for coffee back there a few miles in Midlothian."
Joseph A. Ball: Close to noon, did you make any observation of the area around between your tower and Elm Street?
Lee Bowers: Yes; because of the fact that the area had been covered by police for some 2 hours. Since approximately 10 o'clock in the morning traffic had been cut off into the area so that anyone moving around could actually be observed. Since I had worked there for a number of years I was familiar with most of the people who came in and out of the area.
Joseph A. Ball: Did you notice any cars around there?
Lee Bowers: Yes; there were three cars that came in during the time from around noon until the time of the shooting.
Joseph A. Ball: Came in where?
Lee Bowers: They came into the vicinity of the tower, which was at the extension of Elm Street, which runs in front of the School Depository, 'and which there is no way out. It is not a through street to anywhere.
Joseph A. Ball: There is parking area behind the School Depository, between that building and your tower?
Lee Bowers: Two or three railroad tracks and a small amount of parking area for the employees.
Joseph A. Ball: And the first came along that you noticed about what time of day ?
Lee Bowers: I do not recall the exact time, but I believe this was approximately 12:10, wouldn't be too far off.
Joseph A. Ball: And the car you noticed, when you noticed the car, where was it?
Lee Bowers: The car proceeded in front of the School Depository down across 2 or 3 tracks and circled the area in front of the tower, and to the west of the tower, and, as if he was searching for a way out, or was checking the area, and then proceeded back through the only way he could, the same outlet he came into.
Joseph A. Ball: The place where Elm dead ends?
Lee Bowers: That's right. Back in front of the School Depository was the only way he could get out. And I lost sight of him, I couldn't watch him.
Joseph A. Ball: What was the description of that car?
Lee Bowers: The first car was a 1959 Oldsmobile, blue and white station wagon with out-of-State license.
Joseph A. Ball: Do you know what State?
Lee Bowers: No; I do not. I would know it, I could identify it, I think, if I looked at a list.
Joseph A. Ball: And, it had something else, some bumper stickers?
Lee Bowers: Had a bumper sticker, one of which was a Goldwater sticker, and the other of which was of some scenic location, I think.
Joseph A. Ball: And, did you see another car?
Mr. BOWERS. Yes, some 15 minutes or so after this, at approximately 12 o'clock, 20 to 12... I guess 12:20 would be close to it, little time differential there... but there was another car which was a 1957 black Ford, with one male in it that seemed to have a mike or telephone or something that gave the appearance of that at least.
Joseph A. Ball: How could you tell that?
Lee Bowers: He was holding something up to his mouth with one hand and he was driving with the other, and gave that appearance. He was very close to the tower. I could see him as he proceeded around the area.
Joseph A. Ball: What kind of license did that have?
Lee Bowers: Had a Texas license.
Joseph A. Ball: What did it do as it came into the area, from what street?
Lee Bowers: Came in from the extension of Elm Street in front of the School Depository.
Joseph A. Ball: Did you see it leave?
Lee Bowers: Yes; after 3 or 4 minutes cruising around the area it departed the same way. He did probe a little further into the area than the first car.
Joseph A. Ball: Did you see another car?
Lee Bowers: Third car, which entered the area, which was some seven or nine minutes before the shooting, I believe was a 1961 or 1962 Chevrolet, four-door Impala, white, showed signs of being on the road. It was muddy up to the windows, bore a similar out-of-state license to the first car I observed, occupied also by one white male.
Joseph A. Ball: What did it do?
Lee Bowers: He spent a little more time in the area. He tried - he circled the area and probed one spot right at the tower in an attempt to get and was forced to back out some considerable distance, and slowly cruised down back
towards the front of the School Depository Building.
Joseph A. Ball: Then did he leave?
Lee Bowers: The last I saw of him he was pausing just about in - just above the assassination site.
Joseph A. Ball: Did the car park, or continue on or did you notice?
Lee Bowers: Whether it continued on at that very moment or whether it pulled up only a short distance, I couldn't tell. I was busy.
Joseph A. Ball: How long was this before the President's car passed there?
Lee Bowers: This last car? About 8 minutes.
Joseph A. Ball: Were you in a position where you could see the corner of Elm and Houston from the tower?
Lee Bowers: No; I could not see the corner of Elm and Houston. I could see the corner of Main and Houston as they came down and turned on, then I couldn't see it for about half a block, and after they passed the corner of Elm and Houston the car came in sight again.
Joseph A. Ball: You saw the President's car coming out the Houston Street from Main, did you?
Lee Bowers: Yes; I saw that.
Joseph A. Ball: Then you lost sight of it?
Lee Bowers: Right. For a moment.
Joseph A. Ball: Then you saw it again where?
Lee Bowers: It came in sight after it had turned the corner of Elm and Houston.
Joseph A. Ball: Did you hear anything?
Lee Bowers: I heard three shots. One, then a slight pause, then two very close together. Also reverberation from the shots.
Joseph A. Ball: And were you able to form an opinion as to the source of the sound or what direction it came from, I mean?
Lee Bowers: The sounds came either from up against the School Depository Building or near the mouth of the triple underpass.
Joseph A. Ball: Were you able to tell which?
Lee Bowers: No; I could not.
One witness was in a better position than anyone else to observe suspicious activity by the fence at the top of the grassy knoll. This was railway worker Lee Bowers, perched in a signal box which commanded a unique view of the area behind the fence. Bowers said that, shortly before the shots were fired, he noticed two men standing near the fence.
One was "middle-aged" and "fairly heavyset," wearing a white shirt and dark trousers. The other was "mid-twenties in either a plaid shirt or plaid coat... these men were the only two strangers in the area. The others were workers that I knew." Bowers also said that when the shots were fired at the President "in the vicinity of where the two men I have described were, there was a flash of light, something I could not identify, but there was something which occurred which caught my eye in this immediate area on the embankment... a flash of light or smoke or something which caused me to feel that something out of the ordinary had occurred there." Lee Bowers was questioned by the Warren Commission but was cut off in mid-sentence when he began describing the "something out of the ordinary" he had seen. The interrogating lawyer changed the subject.
At the time of the shooting, in the vicinity of where the two men I have described were, there was a flash of light or, as far as I am concerned, something I could not identify, but there was something which occurred which caught my eye in this immediate area on the embankment. Now, what this was, I could not state at that time and at this time I could not identify it, other than there was some unusual occurrence - a flash of light or smoke or something which caused me to feel like something out of the ordinary had occurred there.
Chevrolet. It entered just "seven to nine minutes before the shooting" and also bore a Goldwater campaign sticker. The Chevrolet also was bespattered by red mud and spent rather longer circling the area, driving very close to the 14-foot tower in which Bowers was. It slowly cruised away, pausing at the point which became the assassination spot.
Bowers also reported that he saw two men standing near the picket fence just before the President was killed. One he described as middle-aged and heavy-set and the other in his mid-twenties, wearing a plaid shirt or a plaid coat or jacket. The descriptions came very close to those rendered by Julia Ann Mercer of the two men she had seen in the green pick-up truck. "These men were the only two strangers in the area" said Bowers. "The others were workers whom I knew." Bowers said the two men were there while the shots were fired.
Lee Bowers was heading west here on highway sixty-seven heading from Midlothian down to Cleburne and according to an eyewitness he was driven off the road by a black car. Drove him into this bridge abutment. He didn't die immediately, he held on for four hours and during that time he was talking to the ambulance people and told them that he felt he had been drugged when he stopped for coffee back there a few miles in Midlothian.
I spoke with an old boy who was repairing fences at the time of the accident. He said he saw two cars coming down the road one behind the other. He turned away for a moment, heard a crash and looked back. One car had hit a bridge abutment and the other kept going.
Since Bowers's car drove off the highway into a concrete abutment, there was suspicion he might have been forced off the road. Researcher David Perry, in "The Lee Bowers Story," (published in the Third Decade, an assassination newsletter), conclusively proved that Bower's death was accidental.
Monty Bowers (the brother of Lee Bowers) concluded Lee's allergies contributed to his death. Both Monty and Lee had severe allergies and were prone to fits of sneezing. They took antihistamines that provided little relief. Monty told representatives of the insurance company his allergies bothered him that day. He assumed Lee experienced similar symptoms. Could it be, Lee took antihistamines, dozed off and struck the abutment? Is it possible a sneezing fit caused him to loose control of the vehicle? In my view the answer is yes. I will modify my opinion when someone comes forward with verifiable facts to the contrary.
Lee Bowers' testimony is perhaps as explosive as any recorded by the Warren Commission. He was one of 65 known witnesses to the President's assassination who thought shots were fired from the area of the Grassy Knoll. (The Knoll is west of the Texas School Book Depository.) But more than that, he was in a unique position to observe some pretty strange behavior in the Knoll area during and immediately before the assassination.
Bowers, then a towerman with the Union Terminal Company, was stationed in his 14-foot tower directly behind the Grassy Knoll. As he faced the assassination site, he could see the railroad overpass to his right front. Directly in front of him was a parking lot, and then a wooden stockade fence and a row of trees running along the top of the Grassy Knoll. The Knoll sloped down to the spot on Elm Street where Kennedy was killed. Police had "cut off" traffic into the parking area, Bowers said, "so that anyone moving around could actually be observed."
Bowers made two significant observations which he revealed to the Commission. First, he saw three unfamiliar cars slowly cruising around the parking area in the 35 minutes before the assassination; the first two left after a few minutes. The driver of the second car appeared to be talking into "a mike or telephone" - "he was holding something up to his mouth with one hand and he was driving with the other." A third car, with out-of-state plates and mud up to the windows, probed all around the parking area. Bowers last remembered seeing it about eight minutes before the shooting, pausing "just above the assassination site." He gave detailed descriptions of the cars and their drivers.
Bowers also observed two unfamiliar men standing on top of the Knoll at the edge of the parking lot, within 10 or 15 feet of each other - "one man, middle-aged or slightly older, fairly heavy-set, in a white shirt, fairly dark trousers. Another younger man, about mid-twenties, in either a plaid shirt or a plaid coat or jacket." Both were facing toward Elm and Houston, where the motorcade would be coming from. They were the only strangers he remembered seeing. His description shows a remarkable similarity to Julia Ann Mercer's description of two unidentified men climbing the knoll.
When the shots rang out, Bowers' attention was drawn to the area where he had seen the two men; he could still make out the one in the white shirt - "the darker dressed man was too hard to distinguish from the trees." He observed "some commotion" at that spot, "...something out of the ordinary, a sort of milling around...which attracted my eye for some reason, which I could not identify." At that moment, he testified, a motorcycle policeman left the Presidential motorcade and roared up the Grassy Knoll straight to where the two mysterious gentlemen were standing behind the fence. The policeman dismounted, Bowers recalled, then after a moment climbed on his motorcycle and drove off. Later, in a film interview with attorney Mark Lane, he explained that the "commotion" that caught his eye may have been "a flash of light or smoke." His information dovetails with what other witnesses observed from different vantage points.
On the morning of August 9, 1966, Lee Bowers, now the vice-president of a construction firm, was driving south from Dallas on business. He was two miles from Midlothian when his brand new company car veered from the road and hit a bridge abutment. A farmer who saw it said the car was going 50 miles an hour, a slow speed for that road. There were no skidmarks to indicate braking.
Bowers died of his wounds at 1 p.m. in a Dallas hospital. He was 41. There was no autopsy, and he was cremated soon afterward. Doctors saw no evidence that he had suffered a heart attack. A doctor from Midlothian, who rode in the ambulance with Bowers, noticed something peculiar about the victim. "He was in a strange state of shock," the old doctor said, "a different kind of shock than an accident victim experiences. I can't explain it. I've never seen anything like it."
Bowers widow at first insisted to Penn Jones that there was nothing suspicious about her husband's death. Then she became flustered and said: "They told him not to talk."
Lee Bowers Jr. was in a unique position during the assassination of the President, sitting in the Union Terminal Company switchtower in the parking lot next to the Book Depository Building. In front of Bowers were the picket fence and the famed "grassy knoll" from which many witnesses felt some shots were fired. Bowers testified to the movement of three strange cars in the railroad yards during the half hour preceding the shots, to the presence of two men near the fence who "were the only two strangers in the area', and to an unusual occurrence down on the grassy knoll at the time of the shots. This testimony is commonly cited in books critical of the Warren Report as supportive of the theory that some shots came from the grassy knoll area, indicating that the president was killed in a crossfire (and therefore as the result of a conspiracy). But at least one associate of Bowers and several independent investigators claim that Bowers had seen more than he indicated in his relatively brief testimony to the Warren Commission. They claim that he saw things following the shots beyond those which he testified to. At this point there is no way of asking Lee Bowers Jr. if he has more to say, because he died on August 9, 1966.
The cause of death was a multitude of injuries suffered when his car suddenly left the road and crashed. No other cars were involved and it was a clear, sunny day. There was no obvious cause for the accident. Several Warren Report critics report that interviews with some of the attending physicians indicated that he was in an unusual state of shock which was atypical of accident victims and which they could not explain. A Warren Report defender, however, claims that one of the physicians told him that it appeared that Bowers had a coronary. In any event, Bowers is no longer with us.