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Locals say Jim Fowler had impact on Omaha, entire world

Posted at 10:19 PM, May 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-09 23:19:58-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — If you knew Jim Fowler, you knew the man loved animals.

"He was just a down to earth animal guy, Jim was first and foremost an animal guy," says Lee Simmons, former executive director of Henry Doorly Zoo.

But you didn't need to personally meet him, to figure that out.

Fowler, alongside his co-host Marlin Perkins, brought their love of wildlife to the whole world, with their show Wild Kingdom.

"They were way, way ahead of their time."

The show wasn't just entertaining.

Former director of Henry Doorly Zoo Lee Simmons, says Fowler helped educate people all around the globe about habitats, and the need to protect them.

"Jim and Marlin probably had as much to do with shaping the public's appreciation of nature and of conservation, the need for conservation, as the zoo's did,” says Simmons.

And Fowler definitely had a local impact.

He was the driving force behind Wildlife Encounters, a Gretna based non-profit that teaches kids about animals.

Kip Smith says Fowler initially reached out to them over 20 years ago, but it didn't go very well.

"He actually called my parents and said hi this is Jim Fowler, my mom thought it was a joke and she actually hung up on him,” says Kip Smith, education director at Wildlife Encounters.

Eventually they re-connected, and Fowler was on the organization's board of advisers until he passed away today.

"His passion and what he did for animals and wanting to experience that with other people, he reached millions of millions of people and hopefully that legacy will live on to teach more kids about wildlife conservation,” says Smith.

Fowler's memory for those who knew him invokes a smile and a laugh.

He was also known for keeping a few bugs on him on a regular basis.

"Jim would like to put to put them in his pockets and bring them out to surprise the kids, one day he went to a fancy dinner after the program and forgot he had a bunch of cockroaches in his pocket and they crawled all over him while he was having dinner,” says Smith.