Jailers of the Fifth Jail of Laurel County

Photo Courtesy Joyce Garland Parker

Imogene and Big John Bowling

The fifth jail was completed in 1975 and was only used as the primary jail for about 20 years. The jailers were Chester Scoville, Big John Bowling, Imogene Bowling and R. C. Walker. I provided Mr. Scoville's biography in the column printed September 16, 2020. For information on Big John and R.C. I consulted their obituaries as printed in The Sentinel-Echo. Imogene graciously allowed me to interview her over the telephone and I want to thank her for providing additional information on Big John and herself.

"Big John" and Imogene Bowling

Jailers from 1978-1990

Big John served as Laurel County Jailer from January 1978 to September 15, 1989. He was recognized for having the best jail in Kentucky and was named Jailer of the Year in both 1978 and 1979. He was known for his kindness and compassion. Big John is also well remembered for decorating the outside of the jail with lights each year at Christmas. People came from across the state to view this display. He paid for the decorations and electricity to power the lights from his personal funds, not tax payer money. When Big John resigned due to ill health, his wife Imogene was appointed jailer to complete his term. She served till the end of December 1990.

John Bowling was born September 17, 1940, in Laurel County, Kentucky to Sim and Nellie Barnett Bowling. Before he started his tenure as jailer he hauled trucks from Michigan to GMC dealers in Florida. He married Imogene Blankenship June 23, 1969, here in Laurel County. Imogene was born August 4, 1937, at Piney Grove near the location of the present day Wyan-Pine School. She is the daughter of Willie and Lula Lloyd Blankenship. "Big John" and Imogene have five children: Tammy Jo Fox, Toni Mancini, Barbara Wells, Joyce Parker and Gerald Gregory.

John was a member of the McKee Lodge #144 F. & A.M. In 2012 he received an award from the Laurel County Republican Party for his service to the community. Imogene is a member of the Republican Women's Club. She is a member of Circle of Faith Holiness Church which was also Big John's home church. Big John passed away on Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, due to complications from congestive heart failure. Jailer Big John Bowling is buried in the McDaniel Cemetery.

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R. C. (Reuben Curtis) Walker

Jailer 1991-1994

R. C. Walker was born April 29, 1934, in London to William Russell and Ruth Johnson Walker. He worked in the funeral home business for almost 40 years. He served as Laurel County Coroner from 1966-1973. He was a volunteer fire fighter for the London City Fire Department and helped establish the Laurel County Fire Department where he served as "Chief.' He had four children: Edward M. Walker, Steve Walker, Stewart Walker and Deborah Greenwald. The coronavirus took his life on April 16, 2020. Jailer Reuben Curtis "R. C." Walker is buried at the Swiss Colony Cemetery.

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