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Friday, May 6, 2016

Man of God, or con artist? 'Walking Preacher' arrives in Dyersburg

Friday, February 1, 2008

Man of God or con artist?

That seems to be the question about James Bowman, who calls himself "The Walking Preacher". Bowman, who turned 52 on Monday, has been walking through the area trying to give his testimony to area churches.

A newspaper article published by the Kennett, Mo. Daily Dunklin Democrat last week pointed out that after speaking at an area church, some people were not convinced of Bowman's sincerity.

Bowman arrived in Dyersburg on Thursday. Assisted by the Union Mission, he was given a room at the Comfort Inn.

During an interview with the Caruthersville, Mo. Democrat Argus on Wednesday, Bowman spoke from a Hayti motel.

"I have places to see today," he said, as an impending ice storm was due, "Normally God tells me in a dream what to do, today he has not told me yet. If someone comes forward with $35 I will spend another night here."

Bowman said he is originally from Las Vegas. He presented his credentials on Thursday at the Dyer County Sheriff's Department, consisting of a Nevada driver's license and a large camouflage-pattern bag. He said he had been on "Oprah" three times and had appeared on "Larry King Live."

It was in Nevada, Bowman told the reporter, where his father killed his mother when he was 17 and died in prison two years later.

Bowman said he has no living relatives or family.

He admits to the life that included times as a heroin addict, hustler, thief and petty criminal.

"One night I was sleeping in the desert when I decided to do 10 times the regular amount of heroin," said Bowman. "I injected it and lay down to die. I was hit in the head by something, something I thought was a burr, and it was a business card of a preacher. That very preacher came and took me in that night. The heroin did not kill me; I survived it and turned my life over to God."

Pastors where Bowman has preached admit he has a strong testimony.

But there are parts of his story during the two-hour interview, and during some of his appearances, that tend to unravel.

Pastor Tom Smith of the First Baptist Church in Coushatta, La. was one of the first church leaders to voice concerns.

"He told a story about God sending a moose in Maine to protect him," Smith said.

The pastor said he began to have doubts about Bowman's stories and after Bowman spoke at his church he gave him a ride to Alexandria, La.

"He told me he gave away all of his money, and then I found out that just a few minutes before one of our church members had given him a $100 bill," Smith said.

Smith was contacted by a church in Natchez, Miss. that questioned him about Bowman after Bowman appeared there three weeks ago.

The Natchez Democrat reported that church's pastor took Bowman aside and asked if he knew of Smith. Bowman asked where the bathroom was and left.

During his interview with the Democrat Argus, Bowman was nervous and smoked one cigarette after another. He paced.

Bowman said he had attempted to speak at a local Baptist church and was not allowed to the night before.

At the end of the service, he said, two Pemiscot County deputies approached him.

He told the Democrat Argus that after talking to the deputies they "verified who he was and that he was the 'real deal'." Pemiscot County Sheriff's Department Lt. Ryan Holder confirmed he spoke to Bowman, but there was no discussion of verifying the validity of Bowman's statements.

Holder also warned area churches to be careful not to get caught in a scam.

Bowman repeatedly clarified that he does not "ask anyone for money." He said he tells people to only do "what God puts on their hearts."

Smith readily agrees Bowman could have a powerful testimony if what he says is true, but that by falsifying statements it hurts people who give him money and believe in him.

"I told him that by taking money this way, he may stop people from helping others in genuine need," Smith said. "We pray for him to find his way."

Smith said some of his last words after confronting Bowman with some discrepancies were that "God has a long arm."

Smith may not have known how true those words could be as newspaper articles and Internet blogs are reaching out to churches cautioning them about Bowman.

For example, Bowman said he has preached at more than 80 correctional facilities across the country.

He does not have current photo identification; he produced a long-expired one.

Among the statements that Bowman made to the Democrat Argus that were unable to be verified are the following:

He was given a $270,000 house in Nevada that he gave to the homeless.

He was given a Ford Taurus that he gave to the homeless.

He sleeps within three to four feet of the white line of the highway when he is on the road with nowhere to sleep.

He has saved 12-15 people's lives because God has told him to go to a specific house. One life was a child who he said was underwater for 26 hours, another he was able to walk into a burning house unprotected. He came across a man who had a wreck missing a deer, hit a tree and got his arm cut off. The man almost bled to death but Bowman saved him, said Bowman.

He said he is friends with federal judges, FBI field supervisors, congressmen and other high-ranking officials.

He has a book of 30 to 40 names that he could call for immediate delivery of sums from $10,000 to $100,000, but refuses to do so unless instructed to by God.

A man has informed him that he has $1 million waiting on him when he settles down, again according to Bowman.

Has he walked over 25,000 miles in all 48 states.

Man of God or con artist? It will probably be up to the people in Tennessee to decide.

A check of his room after the 11 a.m. checkout time revealed that he was given a ride to Tennessee.

No one came forward to pay for another night in Missouri.

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impressive life story... if not exaggerated.

-- Posted by jeramy on Fri, Feb 1, 2008, at 2:04 AM

Sadly, this individual exhibits symptoms of schizophrenia and needs medical help. The heroin in the desert, the moose in Maine, and the voices in his head should tell us that we are dealing with someone who is not in touch with reality.

-- Posted by DPB67 on Fri, Feb 1, 2008, at 8:59 AM

Why are people of faith always protrayed as "crazy" or something being wrong with them? I hope is is being truthful. Only he and GOD knows.

-- Posted by what if on Fri, Feb 1, 2008, at 11:37 AM

Sounds like the "preacher" might be a few

fries short of a happy meal.Too bad old

Bullwinkle can't talk........(sigh).

-- Posted by lloyd49 on Fri, Feb 1, 2008, at 2:32 PM

Definitely someone who needs our prayers. So let's all send up many prayers and blessings for this unfortunate soul.

-- Posted by ConnieGP on Fri, Feb 1, 2008, at 5:14 PM

He doesn't sound like he is the sharpest tool in the shed !! Maybe he really does hear the little voices in his head .

-- Posted by stormiesprincess on Fri, Feb 1, 2008, at 8:19 PM

Just another scam artist playing on the generosity of simple Christian folk. Offer him a job and see where that goes.

-- Posted by A Citizen on Sat, Feb 2, 2008, at 8:40 AM

Sounds like someone who needs our prayers!

-- Posted by ConnieGP on Sat, Feb 2, 2008, at 1:26 PM

It's not for us to judge this man. You do what's in your heart to do if this man isn't who he claims then God will deal with that, it's not our place.

-- Posted by Fenderplayer78 on Wed, Feb 6, 2008, at 10:52 PM

Many years ago, people would travel around the country selling small bottles of liquid said to cure most ailments. Of course the medicine didn't work but the con artists were already gone. Hence the name "Snake oil Salesman" since many concoctions were said to contain snake oil. I didn't lose any money to this man simply because I didn't have any money with me at the time!!

-- Posted by Snakeoilsalesman on Sun, Feb 10, 2008, at 12:52 AM

at least the snake oil usually had abuzz to it. this guy should write a book of all his tall tales. he'd be up there with paul bunyun pecos bill andrest of em.A LEGAND WALKS AMONG US maybe that should have been the headline

-- Posted by cacy101 on Sun, Feb 10, 2008, at 8:05 AM

a man in bainbridge ga picked him up to go to church in climax ga and he told his testimony to his church.then after he asked the man to take him to cario ga.and bowman told the man that lives in bainbridge that he sleeps under the shotwell bridge here in bainbridge...so he is probably somewhere in this region.that was on sunday june 15, 2008

-- Posted by hallet on Tue, Jun 17, 2008, at 7:55 PM

My brother picked James up in New Mexico outside of Albuquerque. He was on his way to Vegas. He stayed with my family in NM for a couple of weeks. AS he had no photo ID he could not ride the bus. He never mentioned being the "walking Preacher". He claimed that he was mugged in New York in August of 08. His truck and all belongings were stolen along with his ID. He stayed at Sinai in NY until jan 3rd 09 recovering from his mugging. When he attempted to get a bus home to Vegas he discovered that with out a photo ID he could not board the bus. James then began walking from NY to Vegas so that he could obtain his drivers license. It was late April when my brother picked him up in NM. There are many happenings that occurred between April and early June that I will not attempt to recount here with the exception that James got a judge in Nevada to give him a medical necessity order to be able to ride the bus so that he could go to Ohio and find his adoption papers. James was not able to obtain a photo ID as James Bowman because the birth certificate he possessed was in the name of James Rodney Schwanengel Jr. Born 2-4-1956. A simple internet background check with those 2 pieces of information is enough to reveal that James has been living 2 lives. One of which he is not talking about.

-- Posted by altair on Fri, Jun 12, 2009, at 10:29 PM

this guy came to our church in Springfield MO this past Friday and gave us the same story. We put him up at a hotel.

I guess it's possible he is ripping everyone off. Worst case scenario, he got a place to sleep out of the rain for a night. He wouldn't take any money, he only accepted the room.

-- Posted by paul89 on Mon, Mar 15, 2010, at 5:00 PM

CON CON CON This man has a very shady pass. He tried to kill me about 13 years ago and he is the one that killed his own mother and spent 17 years in prison for it. There are so many more victims also along the way. That is why he changed his name. His record was over an inch thick then. God it the only one that can save him at this point he lies, cheats and steals along the way from trusting people.....Look in the Ohio court papers

-- Posted by harleyrideratheart on Thu, Feb 17, 2011, at 7:59 PM

This man showed up at my business and I did give him a job. Was a good worker until the lies started piling up and he almost killed a fellow worker. Hired him to be a chef. Said he had a expierience. Sure. In prison. Beware of him but if you get the chance to have him make you chicken and dumplings, jump on it. They are to die for

-- Posted by Sadmo on Thu, Feb 17, 2011, at 9:36 PM

James was not adopted he changed his name when he got married not his poor wife trying to run from his past.

-- Posted by harleyrideratheart on Thu, Feb 24, 2011, at 7:14 PM

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