January 15, 2018

Chief Miles Bowers Died Jan. 9, 2018 at age 91

Chief Fire Executive Magazine Recognized Chief Bowers as one of the Country’s “Top 6 Chiefs” in 1988

Tucked away in a cabinet in his office, Tom Francis has several small boxes containing employee service pins. There’s just one box of pins labeled “50.”
Francis, public information officer for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD), still recalls the day when he plucked one of the 50-year service pins and presented it to Director/Fire Chief Miles Bowers.

“I doubt I will ever need one of those again,” Francis said, referring to Bowers’ exceptionally long tenure.

Miles Bowers reported to work for 57 years – more than half of his 91 years on Earth. He died Jan. 9. The World War II veteran came to Jacksonville’s fire department in the late 1940s, when the city experienced extraordinary, multiple alarm structure fires. He worked in Station 3 after it was converted to JFRD’s vehicle shop but before it became the Fire Museum. Fire engines were chain driven back then.

Bowers achieved every civil service rank and was appointed as Director/Fire Chief twice, first in the mid-1980s and briefly in 2003 on an interim basis during mayoral transition. He remained connected to JFRD after his retirement in January 2004, participating in officer training courses, attending numerous events such as the annual retirees’ luncheon at Local 122, the Sea of Blue Fallen Firefighter Memorial March, and the Men from Ten station reunion. If you invited him to a JFRD graduation or dinner at your station, he’d show. On occasion he might bring a supply of vintage JFRD patches to hand out after dinner. Bowers could recall details about calls from decades ago, and he retained his independence, driving himself to events and station visits.
No doubt, Bowers was committed to the fire service, but he also was immersed in his spirituality. For 56 years, Bowers deeply involved himself in North Jacksonville Baptist Church, as a member and a deacon who was considered an encouraging influence on young men.

“He was a constant source of inspiration. I was eternally blessed to watch him all my life,” said Chris Coram, associate pastor for administration at North Jacksonville Baptist, during Bowers’ funeral on Jan. 13.
Hundreds of active duty members and retirees attended the service. They also heard from Senior Pastor Herb Reavis who shared how Bowers beat cancer twice, how he regularly consoled others in need, and how Bowers realized “you have to pass on your character and faith” to new generations.

Reavis also put Bowers’ passing in perspective: “He’s home. He’s healed. He’s happy.”