At age 95, former fireman still feels kinship with firefighters

Steve Nash
L.B. Bowman

EARLY — Once a fireman, always a fireman, L.B. Bowman said in his home on the far east side of Early.

At age 95, Bowman’s firefighting days, of course, are well behind him. But Bowman said he still feels a kinship with firefighters, and he is proud of a pin a former fire chief presented him. 

The pin proclaims him to be a lifetime honorary member of the Brownwood Fire Department. He received the pin while serving in the Brownwood department between the years 1946-1950, when the department was still volunteer.

Bowman, a World War II Army veteran, figures he is likely the only surviving veteran of the department from its volunteer firefighter era.

Bowman plans to attend Tuesday’s dedication of the new Central Fire Station in Brownwood, which will be at 11 a.m. An open house will follow the dedication ceremony. He also hopes to attend the masonic laying of the cornerstone next month.

Bowman, who retired from a long and successful career in the insurance business, lives with his wife, Margaret, in a home near the Travelers N Park and Campground, which he owns.

Bowman described himself as a “farm boy from Comanche.” At age 18, in 1938, he took a job with an insurance company in Hico.He also joined the Hico Volunteer Fire Department, and his reason was simple: “they needed me.” It was an opportunity to serve his community.

Bowman found quick success in the insurance business, and a promotion took him to Stephenville, where he continued to serve as a volunteer firefighter.

Bowman entered the Army during World War II and was part of the second wave of the Normandy invasion, landing on Omaha Beach about four weeks after D-Day. He fought his way into German and was promoted to staff sergeant in the Hurtgen Forest, the site of a series of fierce battles.

“While I was over there in a foxhole, the volunteer firemen would write me,” Bowman said.

Bowman left the Army in 1946 and resumed his job in Stephenville before being transferred to Brownwood, where he worked as district manager for Rio Grand National Life Insurance.

He became president of the Brownwood Fire Department, and was later transferred to Abilene. He was promoted to assistant vice president and was transferred to Waco.

In Waco, Bowman started his own insurance company — Travelers United Insurance. Bowman owned the business for 30 years and sold it in 1984.

Bowman moved back to Brown County in 1969, where he invested in real estate and agriculture. 

Seated in his Early home, Bowman recalled his years as a volunteer firefighter, when most of the trucks had open cabs and firefighters used soda acid to extinguish fires. The trucks had no radioes.

In Brownwood, Bowman said, a blast from the roundhouse whistle at the Santa Fe Depot was the signal for firefighters to get to the station, where they learned the location of the fire.

It was “something you were doing for the community,” Bowman said.