Interview with Don Bowman, 2014 July 11

Material Information

Interview with Don Bowman, 2014 July 11
Bowman, Don ( Interviewee )
Taylor, Jessica ( Interviewer )
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
Tidewater Main Street Development Project
Rural life
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Virginia -- Mathews


Don Bowman talks about how he originally traveled to Mathews County as a government employee in 1951 and what prompted his eventual moving to the county in 1956. He discusses his acceptance by the community as a “come-here” and raising his children in Mathews County. He also talks about practicing law in the county as well as the historical importance of Gloucester Courthouse. He ends the interview talking about how Mathews County has changed over time both economically and socially, specifically in the decline of the seafood industry and how the community has changed with more “come-heres” moving to the county.
General Note:
To access audio version of this interview, click the Downloads tab at the top of the page.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
TMP 031 Don Bowman 7-11-2014 ( SPOHP )


This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text


The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Digital Humanities Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 35 2 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness acc ounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, S POHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Suggested corrections to transcripts will be reviewed and processed on a case by case basis. Oral history int erview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript i s written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and form at I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information abo ut SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. May 2015


TMP 031 Interviewee: Don Bowman Interviewer: Jessica Taylor July 11, 2014 T: July 11, 2014 at 2:00 PM. Mr. Bowman, can you please state your full name? B: Donald Hart Bowman. T: And when were you born? B: October 1, 1924. T: Where were you born? B: San Antonio, Texas. T: B: Gertrude Washburn. And my father was a small dairyman. T: In Texas? B: In San Antonio, Texas. T: Okay Do you have any brothers and sisters? B: I did have, yes. I had, actually, three brothers and no sisters. T: Okay. And when did you come to Mathews? B: Well, I came to Mathews working for the government in 1951, I guess it was. But I moved to Mathews to practice law in 1956.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 2 T: What were you doing with the government in Mathews? B: I worked as a field representative for the Social Security Administration. T: Okay, and why were you in Mathews for that? B: Well, that was my territory. I mean, I was a fiel d representative. I traveled all around the Northern Neck in Mathews, Gloucester, helping people with their Social Security problems. T: Okay. What did you first think of the people here? B: whole lot. I liked the T: What did you like about it? B: Well, I just liked they were down to earth people. They were generous and friendly. They were nice folks. And there was very little crime in Mathews County, too. T: What kind of law did you practice? B: General practice. I had an office right around just right next door. General bit of everything. T: Okay, so what not a lot of crime?


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 3 B: Like I say, everything: we did real estate law, w e did trials, we did everything. I mean, except anythin g like that. T: How did you fit in as a come here? B: I fit in fine, you know. . I was raised in the country, and I fit in just fine. Never had a bit of problem here. People are very friendly here, the local people. T: What was the social environment in the [19]50s? B: Well, it was I guess like it was anywhere else in the country. I mean, you know, people were very friendly and visited one another back and forth. I had a pretty big family. I had four children and I was married. We fit in very well. I wa s raised as a country boy and this is country living here. T: Did you marry someone from here or B: Oh, no, no. She was from Pennsylvania, and I married her when I was in San Antonio. Yeah. T: Okay. How did she adjust to living in Mathews? B: Oh, she did very well. Yeah, no problem. Yeah. T: B: See. . [Laughter] Mostly just visiting with people, I guess, and then we have a yacht club here and we joined that. When I first got here, I pl ayed softball with the social activity here. Back then, anyway.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 4 T: Okay, so you started practicing law here in [19]56. B: Right. T: What was integration like? B: Very goo d here. Actually, the whites and the blacks have always gotten along real well here in Mathews County. T: Could you compare that to San Antonio? B: Well, San Antonio. . I had very little connection with the blacks or the Mexicans. and always have here. T: Okay. So no major changes in race relations. B: You mean now? From wh en? From then? T: Mm hm. B: lot of good friends that are blacks and a lot of former clients, yeah. T: Okay. What was the biggest adjustment coming from San Antonio to her e? B: raised as a country boy. My father was a dairyman and I was raised on a small dairy farm


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 5 T: Okay. So then, as a lawyer, what did you think of the different communities that surround Mathews Courthouse? B: Well, they were pretty much like Mathews. I mean, Middlesex and Gloucester bigger, but people are about the same all around, and yeah. As a representative for the government, I traveled those areas, so I got to meet a lot of people A nd before I ever moved out here, I knew a lot of lawyers and a lot of people. So, the adjustment was not difficult. T: No. But coming in as an outside observer, how were those communities different from each other? B: referring to counties that border on Mat hews: Glouc ester, Middlesex, all these to the big city. Gloucester has changed a lot since then, but back then when I first came here, it was still rural. You know? T: Mm hm. So what then anywhere else? B: eason I moved to Mathews. I was very impressed with the T: Okay. Can you give me a specific example of that in Mathews?


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 6 B: W T: For you, who are some Mathews people that embody that character? B: Most all the people tha t were born and raised here. That lady right next door there, on the other side of the door, embodies it. She was born and raised here. I can name a whole lot of people like that. I mean, anybody that was born here and raised here is. . yeah. T: Okay, s o tell me about your opinions about Ms. Day. B: Yeah, what about her? T: How did you guys meet and become friends? B: Well, she was married. It seems to me . she and her husband had problems, represent her Yeah. [ Interruption in interview ] B: Are you familiar with the fact that t he man that owns this newspaper is John Wa rren Cooke? Do you know who he is? T:


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 7 B: He was the Speaker of the House of Delegates for a number of years Very highly respected. He was the owner of this Gloucester Mathews Gazette Journal Yeah. Hi s daughter now is in charge of it. T: Is that Miss Elsa? B: Elsa, mm hm. You know her? T: Yeah, we interviewed last week. B: T: Okay. Did you get active in community life after B: Yeah, when you come out to a p lace like this a rural community you certainly, expected to do that. T: B: Well . [L aughter] They expect him to take an active part in the community. Yes, they do. And help out. Like you join the Red Cross and you do this and that and never thought about i t. T: B: T:


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 8 B: expect you to do things. Help with the community and do that sort of thing, yeah. T: Interesting. Did you feel like you were helping the community? B: Yeah, I did. I did. I joined stuff. I was President of the Ruritan Club at one time Cross and stuff like that. Charitabl e things. T: Hm. So, you mentioned that you were in a yacht club. B: Yacht club. T: means? B: Well, there is a building down here on Stubbs Creek, which is called a yacht club, People coming down the ba y will come in and stay overnight, moor in front of the T: What kind of people join the yacht club? B: Well, I would say most people that are well fixed financially. I mean, you have to pay dues. If you sailboat. At one time, my family and I joined because they had a swimming pool.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 9 T: Okay. What was the relationship between people that boat for fun, and then watermen that do it for economic purposes? B: Mathews County. I guess you kno w that. I mean, at one time, that industry was watermen, but not like we used to have. We used to have people that pound fish; the fishing industry: pound fishing and crabbing, clamming, seafood industry. T: So what has been your personal relationship with watermen as a lawyer and as a citizen? B: Yeah, mainly as a lawyer, I had to represent them often. Quite often. They would get in difficulty with catch, or whatever. I mean, yeah, or catch too many of something or other, too many crabs or whatever. Catch crabs too small or something. So I represented watermen a lot, yeah. Yeah. T: Okay, interesting. So you also sent your children to school in Mathews, right? B: Mm hm. Yeah. They all went to school. I had four child ren, and they all went to school here and graduated from Mathews High School. T: What was that like for them?


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 10 B: They fit in very well. They did fine. Yeah. T: What did you think of the school system as a parent? B: I was always very pleased with it. Yeah yeah. T: Did you have any relationships with the teachers that were positive for your children? B: Well, not personal, necessarily, but I got to know them. For the most part, I was very impressed with them. I thought they were very capable. Yeah, and my children did pretty well after that. Three of them went to college, I know. My son finished, but anyway. Yeah, they went on to further education, too. Yeah. T: Okay. So how has Mathews changed over time economically? B: Well, the seafood industry is no lon ger as vibrant as it was. I mean, actually Mathews we have a lot of people work down at the Newport News Shipyard. Also, we have other federal facilities down there clos e by. We have a lot of people in Mathews that work down there, you know? They take a bus in the Shipyard, Fort Eustis, all those federal places. So the seafood industry is no longer that important to Mathews County, to tell you the truth. T: Okay. How do you feel about that dependence on the Shipyard and government work?


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 11 B: important to this economy here in Mathews. T: You see it as sustaining the community rather than B: sed to be. And agriculture Mathews is a real small county. that or not have a lot of agriculture here. We have some, but not a lot. And the seafood industry, like I say, is pretty well dried up. We have a lot of people that still crab, put out crab pots, but the fishing industry single pound fisherman in Mathews now. T: Do you see that as a cu ltural loss or an economic loss that B: ound T: B: Oh, well, yeah. I mean, right. If you want to learn about pound fishing, they have et up there. You can see


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 12 But at one time, that was a very thriving business. Fishing, you know. T: So we talked about how things changed economically. How have things changed socially in Mathews in the last fifty years? B: certainly made a profound difference, I guess. People stay ho me and watch televisio T: Was the television not a big thing in the [19]50s? B: Early [19]50s is when it really started. T: What did your kids do f or fun when they were in school? B: I had three girls and a boy . they did anything remember.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 13 T: So you had three girls, right? B: Three girls and a boy, yeah. T: Were you an overprotective father with your girls? B: T: So what was dating like for them? B: they all left h ome pretty early. Two of them went on to college, and the third, my son, remember too much about their dating, to tell you the truth. Incidentally, I think you should know that my wife and I separated. We got divorced. So in the latter part of when my two youngest children I was living apart from them. I was living somewhere else. T: Oh, okay. You were still living in Mathews? B: Yeah, yeah. But I was living somewhere else, yeah. T: Okay. Well, maybe we can broaden it, then. So, what are some of your memories of raising children in Mathews? B: very safe place for children. People look out for one knit


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 14 knit. I never had too much to worry about with what they were doing, to tell you the truth. T: Do you have any anecdotes to that effect? B: think of any. Are you talking about problems or what? T: No, not at all. It can be a fond memory. B: Oh. I know when my kids would bring their friends home and just like any other kids, they were a T: So at work, can you talk about any ama zing cases you took on? B: about some of those. You got to be awful careful. I had some interesting cases, were some T: B: T: I understand. B: Yeah.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 15 T: Okay, so how have the buildings in Mathews changed over t ime, as far as development goes? B: ement community, really. s closed up now. A guy that bought it from T: This may seem like a weird question, but can you tell me about your office? B: courthouse was right across the street. It made sense to move the courthouse; the new courthouse is over there where the school used to be. I used to have to T: B: Yeah. T: So what did the interior of your office look like ? B: just several rooms. T: Okay. What were your impressions of the old courthouse?


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 16 B: one; I quit practicing before that came into being. T: Okay. B: Yeah. T: Does the ins ide of the courthouse look any different than it used to? B: I think they still use it for meetings of the Board of Supervisors once in a while, and maybe they use it as a courthouse once just for sentimental reason anymore really, like it used to be. T: By that you mean it lost its purpose? B: where it is; you came in from Gloucester, you pass by it on the right hand side. elaborate place than this one, old courthouse. T: Do you like the less elaborate style? B: the way they were when you were yo ung and practiced. Yeah, I liked the way it was. Yeah, I was very comfortable. I only had to walk across the street to go into the courthouse. Sometimes, they would call me and say, your case has come on. Come and get your s real convenient. I loved it. Yeah, I loved practicing law.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 17 T: Did you eat lunch in the Courthouse when you B: T: Was that a g ood time to socialize and catch up? B: Oh, yeah. Sure, right. Yeah. T: Okay. Talk about cases? B: Sure, talk about everything, yeah. Sure. T: Okay, so I guess the last question I really have for you is, have you ever looked at Mathews as a historic place? B: Yeah, it is a historic place, I think. Yeah. T: What do you think about its history? B: Warren Cooke was John well. He was the Speaker of the House of Delegates. But think about it: his father was one of Genera you know Elsa is his daughter. T: So you feel like the history is tangible.


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 18 B: Yeah, sure. And my partner, when I first came here, was a state senator: Marvin Minter. He had to go down to the le gislature every couple of years. As I learned, back du ring the Civil War I think that was maybe even the Revolutionary War Revolutionary War. A lot of history in Mathews, sure. I d Island; I do know something about that. T: B: Well, I am now because I spent all this t T: What do you feel like your impact has been on the community here? B: made a lot of friend s here and I think that on the whole of course. You make enemies when you practice law. But I think on the whole, I have the respect of the people that county. T: As a professional, though, how do you feel you developed as an attorne y? B: Well, I think in th e normal course of practicing, T: How are you different from other lawyers? B: Now, I think country lawyers are different from city lawyers, I have to say that. I


TMP 031; Bowman; Page 19 mean, I think country lawyers get along better than city lawyers do. They respect one anoth er more than I think city lawyers do. lot of friends among lawyers and judges, too. One of my best friends was a judge. He died here not long ago . But I had a lot of respect for most of the lawyers. Every once in a whil T: B: the I [ End of interview ] Transcribed by: Jessica Taylor Audit edited by: Austyn Szempruch, November 20, 2014 Final edited by: Jessica Taylor

xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
REPORT xmlns http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitss xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.fcla.edudlsmddaitssdaitssReport.xsd
INGEST IEID EVSTPBDJI_1X44EG INGEST_TIME 2015-10-16T19:18:02Z PACKAGE AA00032078_00001