Spending years impersonating the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Warm Springs and throughout the state, it seemed suiting that James Fowler would be asked to play the president in “A President in Our Midst,” a documentary of FDR’s time in Georgia, which was released on Georgia Public Broadcasting last month.
With a love for history and a dream of being on the “big screen,” Fowler says “all his troubles disappear” whenever he has the chance to present the history of the late president while perfecting his impersonations of FDR.
After obtaining a degree in history and beginning to teach, Fowler and his now wife visited Warm Springs in May of 1982 and fell in love with the place. On a whim, Fowler, a lover of history, sent a letter to the district office for natural resources and offered his services as a tour guide. On the same day that a new employee sent word that she would not begin employment, his letter arrived, and Fowler was called to work as a tour guide for a few years.
Fowler, a Pike County resident, decided to follow his dream of acting and began working as an extra in Georgia film productions, working around the region during the late 1980s and ‘90s, while teaching history for East Coweta County Schools and Gordon State College (including night classes on the remote campus of Upson High).
Over the years, Fowler states that he always kept up with Warm Springs.
In 2008, he visited Warm Springs and found out there was a need for an FDR actor, to which Fowler replied, “Let me try.”
Fowler’s first production as FDR was a D-Day program in June of 2009, when he reenacted FDR’s prayer to the nation. In preparation, he colored his hair gray, suited up, and spent many nights listening to FDR’s prayer, in an effort to perfectly imitate the infliction of the president’s voice. Afterward, invitations “poured in,” said Fowler, and he was asked to return many times.
“Public speaking is my forte,” commented Fowler. “It is so gratifying and rewarding to share history and inspire children… When I hear ‘Good morning, Mr. President,’ all my troubles disappear. I’m treated like a president.”
In addition to performances at Warm Springs, Fowler has performed reenactments of many FDR speeches across the region, including at many electrical co-ops, due to FRD’s instrumental work in bringing electricity to rural America.
In preparation for the recently released FDR documentary, “A President in our Midst,” an hour-long documentary about Roosevelt’s life in Georgia, Fowler was called by one of the executive producers, local Dan White, to play the president in the documentary and record narrations.
While the nation is going through “tough times with COVID,” comments Fowler, “I’m reminded of the hard times that FDR and the nation have gone through, like his fight with polio, The Great Depression, and the Spanish flu pandemic. I want young people to know that our current problems are virtually identical to those of 100 years ago.”