Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | November 19, 2013

63 and Counting

James Atticus Bowden

James Atticus Bowden

Recently, Tom Gilliam graduated from our Sunday School class.  There’s only one way to graduate from the class that was the “Young Men’s Class” in 1957 – and still includes some original members.  At his viewing there were collages of photographs from his life.  You’ve seen such displays.  The pictures were iconic images for important people, important times and places in his life.  I wondered what the icons were for my life – and decided to put them together myself.  Icons instead of the photos to tell a story.

This is biography, not ballyhoo.  It isn’t a “I like me wall.”

Here’s the story it tells for one life – one blade of grass, one vapor of breath, one man.

Ancestors brought their culture, their history, and their faith.

Ancestors brought their culture, their history, and their faith.

I’m over half Lowland Scot, Highland Scot (Clan Gunn), and Scot-Irish.  There’s a mess of English and two lines of Welsh and French Huguenot.  My ancestors passed their culture forward.  Oral history was taught at the table.  The oldest tale was “Once our Clan fought a big battle and killed many of our enemies.  They defended from a house on a hill.”  That was it.  “It” refers to a battle in 1586 where the Gunns killed 140 men in Highland tribal warfare.  The history from the frontier (1760s) forward was told in stories.

Their stories are the tales of humble, hard-working people.  People of devout Evangelical Protestant faith.  Our original ancestor from France was a Pastor who was going to have his head cut off – because of his faith.  My ancestors didn’t come to America for jobs and wealth.  They went out to dangerous uncivilized frontier to be free.  Except, of course, John Bowden – who we think was transported as a criminal (our story is sheep thief) from the docket in Kent County, England to well-settled Tidewater Virginia.  His 5 boys chose freedom and served in the Revolution.  One died.

Family, faith, freedom – the ideas and passion were inherited.

Amelia County and Isle of Wight County, Virginia

Amelia County and Isle of Wight County, Virginia

All the ancestors went to Virginia.  Amelia County and Isle of Wight County.  It matters because they were part of a new culture and place – Virginia.  Virginia in the 1600s and 1700s wasn’t Massachusetts, or New York or Pennsylvania – the other major sub-cultures of English-speaking America.  They were part of their times, as we all are.  So, by the end of the First Great Awakening they were all Baptists or Methodists.

To the frontiers: Upcountry South Carolina and West Tennessee

To the frontiers: Upcountry South Carolina and West Tennessee

My father’s family – he was over 3/4ths Celtic – went to the frontier in West Tennessee – Tipton County.  Mother’s family went to the frontier in Greenville County, South Carolina.  Both families have annual family reunions.  Both reunions unite the kin of matriarchs who were children during the Recent Unpleasantness (1861-1865).  Daddy’s family feels more like Clan.

My cousin, Dr. Henry Bowden, dedicated one of his books to my Father – “Christian-Soldier-Patriarch.”  He dedicated another book to my Mother – “With thanks not for what she had but for what she was.”  My parents were very much people of their times.  My Mother taught life lessons – all the time.  My Father gave a few pointed lessons, but mainly he “was.”  I dedicated my novel to them and Grandfather Atticus because they taught me about ‘courage’.

My parents had a storybook romantic love all their lives.  I’ll be able to bore my grandchildren for years with their stories – living through the Depression, WWII, and from the 40s/50s life with my sisters and me in Europe and here.

I told my Mother on her deathbed that she was the re-incarnation of Jean Calvin.  She laughed.  My cousin, Carolyn Smith Todd, said, “There’s a lot of your Daddy in you.”  One of the best compliments in my life.  Their Christian faith, courage, sense of duty, loyalty, patriotism – and joie de vivre – was such a strong example to see.

All loyal to the Constitution, their States, and the South.

All loyal to the Constitution, their States, and the South.

I am a Southerner.  A Southerner without the accent, but Southern by heritage, culture and affection.  All of my ancestors were loyal to the 1787 US Constitution – the voluntary union of sovereign states.  Everyone gave everything they had to defend their homes.  One GG-Grandfather was killed.  Brothers were killed, died of disease or wounded.  My G-Grandmother was deaf for life – from a Yankee war crime.  I walked the battlefields with Atticus and heard stories his Grandfather Holland told him.  We have letters.  Our oral history is shared memories of courage, fidelity, honor.

Three generations were impoverished by war.  Lesson learned:  Never lose a war.  Also, you can be poor and free – honorable and proud.

I love our culture.   It’s home.  I believe we are ascending – not as Confederates – but our ideas.  Our ideas will triumph – and the South will lead the US in winning the US Culture War and the WW IV against the Islamists.

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma

All before shaped so much of me.  I was born in Lawton, Oklahoma.  My Father’s Engineer battalion went to France – and there began my memories of my life.   First memories (from age 2!) are a vineyard and wine cellar.  My Mother said my eyes were a bright blue light.

Army brat, cadet, Officer

Army brat, cadet, Officer

I was an Army brat.  Went to West Point when I was 17.  Proud and True, USMA 1972.  The bottom of the barrel class -at the height of the Vietnam War with every qualified candidate accepted.  Grew up there.  Never let school interfere with my education.  Consider my classmates my band of brothers.  Served as an Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer.  The patches show the path.  Loved being an Infantry Officer.  Loved being a soldier.  It was my passion.  Liked taking tough challenges and winning.  Liked being part of a team.  Liked leading – and planning, coordinating and executing.  Had career death.  March 15, 1987 messaged, by the Lord I believe, I would “read and write”.

Education is more than degrees

Education is more than degrees

Got formal education.  Humbled and grateful to go to Harvard.  Felt like a kid in a candy store choosing my classes.  Most civilized place I’d ever been.  Learned how to learn.  Taught at West Point and learned the most important lesson in life from my classmates there – daily Bible reading.  Went to Columbia for the PhD I didn’t finish – terminal naivete that I could do writing when I went back to troops.  Very rigorous work.  Harder to get an ‘A’ than Harvard.  Learned scholarship from Liberal lions.

Life after Army

Life after Army

Over 20 years of life after Army includes the novel, Rosetta 6.2, and a lot of other writing.  Virginia politics and activism, elected party apparatchik and Tea Party guy – which included 6 weeks as a real politician when our Congress lady died.  Defense contractor, specializing in “Futures”, and now always looking for work as President of BowdenHouse Inc.

Above it all, American.  Loyal to the 1787 US Constitution as written.

Last Acts

Last Acts

Now, after living 25 places – and in one place for over 24 years – I’m a 63 year old Papa to 4 grandbabies.  Husband of one wife.  Father to three grown children and two in-laws.

These icons show much of what I am.  Not who I am.  Life is about relationships.  Not things.

These icons don’t show the success and failure I’ve experienced when I was earning the icons of my life.  The icons don’t show the times I was knocked to my knees, humiliated, broken, sad, hurting for family or self or others.  The icons from my heritage don’t show the decisions I’ve made of my own free will.

These icons don’t show the dark night of the soul – and the bright light of the Eastern Star.

The icon collage shows the Holy Bible behind, supporting, all.  In fact, the central relationship in life is I AM – I.  Between Creator and created human being.  This relationship shapes all relationships.  Or its absence does.

The key to relationships is Grace.  The unconditional love given to us by God is UNCONDITIONAL.  We have a new day, every day from rising to resting, to give unconditional love to others.

The icon story stops with me in Virginia – as an old Papa.  But, I feel like I’m 25.  I don’t have that physical ability, but I have that passion and drive.  I feel that alive.

I’ve understood life – since I was 16 when my father had his first heart attack – to be a hierarchy of duties.   Duty, Honor, Country.  And, do whatever must be done for family, faith and freedom.  Live and let live.  Live the relationships – know the Lord Jesus Christ, Father God and Holy Ghost through Bible study, prayer and worship – with others in abundance.

Laugh often.  Sing always.

There are huge challenges for Virginia, America and Christendom.  They’ll be there for my kids and grandchildren when I’m gone.  At 63 and counting, may my reading and writing serve our Lord Jesus Christ, America, the South, and Virginia.

I hope my iconic symbols speak clearly.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


  1. Good job!

  2. Tells an interesting tale, something to preserve for your grandchildren.

    Here is just a friendly reminder. When I clicked on your name using your last comment on my website, it lead me to However, it looks like you have given up that domain. So you may as well point folks directly here.

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