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Family explains the history of the George Bowles Activity Center in Lafayette

Family explains the history of the George Bowles Activity Center in Lafayette
Posted at 7:27 PM, Jul 21, 2020

LAFAYETTE — As debates continue over the closure of four recreation centers in North Lafayette, the family of one man whose name is attached to an activity center say the centers are part of history.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory says he wants to explore creative solutions to keep the four recreation centers open. Among possible solutions, corporate sponsorship and even selling naming rights.

However, for some of these centers the name is an important part of a legacy.

"I was proud of the fact the place was named after him," Wilma Bowles said about her late husband George. "He served. He was a man of service."

George Bowles, Jr. is a name that goes beyond the activity center that's named after him. It's a name of a man who played a significant role for the Black community in Lafayette.

"He was very active," Wilma said. "He believed that blacks should have all the civil rights that any other American had."

Wilma, now 90 years old, still remembers her late husband's courage. He was the first Black man to run for mayor in Lafayette. She says he always stressed the importance of civics among the Black community.

"He even kind of marched in front of city hall one time," Wilma said. "He took my son with him and a lot of people. He participated in voter registration drives. He found people to go out and canvas the neighborhood to see who needed to go out and vote. So they could see who didn't know where to go out and vote. He wanted them to be heard."

Those are lessons their son remembers well.

"We listened to him for a long time when he was alive," George Bowles III said. "We understood him. He believed when he ran for mayor, that we didn't believe that we could do it and he said 'Hey we can do it.' We didn't come in last. This was the first time that we showed up and say 'Hey we actually count.'"

Now, with petitions underway to keep the rec centers open, Wilma says the public should look to her husband as an example.

"He would be right in the middle of everything," Wilma said. "He'd be out there, saying something. Doing something."

She added, "Sometimes you just got to pull people off the seat to get them to do things because they don't believe that they can do it. When they got that ability that's just sitting there and not being used."

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