Festival on the Brazos Ambassador 2021

By Gretchen Eichenberg

James Douglas Bowen

James Douglas Bowen will serve as Ambassador of the Festival on the Brazos set for Friday, April 23, 2021. A lifelong Wacoan who is all about family and community, Bowen looks forward to representing his city throughout the Festival weekend.

“I’m proud that I was born and raised in Waco and that I have had the opportunity to give back to this community that I so deeply love,” Bowen said. “I love watching this community flourish and grow. It means a lot to me that we are starting a new era of the Festival and I have the honor of being the first Ambassador.”

Bowen is the son of the late Paul Reeves Bowen and the late Dorothy Brown Bowen. He is married to Glenda Waller Bowen of Hubbard and they have three daughters and one son.

Tracey Bowen Pruett and husband, Charlie Porter Pruett, reside in Ft. Worth. They have  four children, Joshua Tyler Cavender, who lives in New Braunfels; Dillon Cade Cavender and wife, Maddie Ibarra Cavender, from Waco; Kylee Jade Upchurch who lives in Ft. Worth; and the late Chase Everette Cavender. She has two grandsons, Gaston Gruene Cavender and Everette Dean Cavender.

Cami Bowen Mason and husband, Brad Alden Mason, live in Dawson, Texas. They have three children: James Carson Bajer, married to Alexandria Wolf Bajer, who live in West, Texas;  Caycee Bajer Rowell is married to Adam Daniel Rowell. They reside in West, Texas and have two children, Luke Daniel and Evan Joyce. Collin Joseph Bajer resides in West.

Their son, Paul Wade Bowen, lives in New Braunfels with his wife, Shelby O’Neal Bowen, and sons Bruce Wade Bowen and Brock O’Neal Bowen.

Jill Bowen Goss and husband, Cameron Joseph Goss, reside in Waco with their two sons, Bowen Nikolas Goss and Bryce Cameron Goss, and their daughter, Reeves Barron Goss.

The family has been involved in the Festival on the Brazos for more than three decades, participating in the historical production and serving on various committees. Wade Bowen was a royal escort in 1996 and Jill Bowen Goss was a princess in 2002 and is serving as court direction chairman this year. The young Bowen Goss will accompany his grandfather on stage as a Royal Attendant this year.

“I’m really humbled and honored to be able to represent Waco this year,” Bowen said.

The lone son in a family with three sisters, Bowen attended St. Mary’s Catholic Elementary School and graduated from Reicher Catholic High School in 1968. He then earned a Bachelors of Business Administration degree from Baylor University in 1972. Bowen’s dad founded Bowen Electric Co., a full-service industrial, commercial and residential electrical contracting firm, in 1955. During college, Bowen worked part-time for the business. Upon graduation, he joined his dad, working full time.

Due to illness and the untimely death of his dad in 1973, Bowen took over as president of the company. He owned and operated Bowen Electric for the next 41 years before retiring in January 2015 and handing the reins to Jill and Cameron Goss. They run the company today in its third generation.

“I feel very fortunate that my dad established a name – an honest name – for our family business,” Bowen said. “I feel confident that I have passed that name, and everything that goes with it, on to my youngest daughter and son-in-law.”

Bowen said he is proud that his company could be of service to the community during the historic winter storm that hit Texas in February. They were on site at both residential and commercial locations, troubleshooting issues in some of the city’s most vulnerable situations.

“Several of the local nursing homes lost power in their backup generators or they didn’t have one, so that was deemed a real emergency,” Bowen said. We worked tirelessly to get the generators back online and had to stand by and refuel. It was a big job and an important one.”

Serving on the City of Waco Board of Electrical Examiners for more than 15 years, Bowen is committed to being a local industry leader who is in tune with the needs of his community.

Bowen said his dad instilled in him a solid work ethic from an early age, beginning with a morning paper route at the ages of 10 through 12.

“My dad left for work at 6 o’clock in the morning and came home at 6 o’clock at night,” he said. “He was an extremely hard worker. I’m very fortunate to be in a position where my father set the groundwork for me.”

Bowen said that always following through with what he says he will do is at the forefront of his business mindset.

“It’s as simple as that,” he said. “My father’s motto was: You don’t get a prize for doing the right thing. I hope when people think of Bowen Electric, they think of good quality work at a fair price.”  

By the time he was 13, Bowen had started working summers at Bowen Electric, putting in four hours a day.

“I worked summers and holidays throughout high school,” he said. “And I earned my journeyman license before graduation.”

Of all the mentors in his life, besides his dad, Bowen said he credits some of his coaches with having the greatest influence on him.

“My little league coach Bill Smith, teenage baseball coach Jack Harwell and high school coach John Vasek all inspired me to later coach youth sports myself,” Bowen said. “They taught me the value of teamwork and performing to the best of your ability.  They also showed me that sports, especially for young kids, should be fun.”

Because his dad died at such an early age, when Bowen was 24, his good friend, former Waco Mayor and attorney J.P. Davis, stepped in and was another positive influence on him as a young adult while he learned to be a contractor and a businessman.

“J.P. guided me through all the ins and outs of running a business and everything that went along with that,” Bowen said. 

Bowen met his wife, Glenda, through a mutual friend and business associate and they married in 1981. 

“Glenda is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “My sisters were pretty tough on the women I knew, but they liked Glenda right from the start and so did my mother. That’s how I knew she was the right one.”

At the beginning of their marriage, Glenda served as her husband’s business partner and also dedicated herself to the many activities that went along with raising four children.

“At first, she handled the monthly billing statements and mostly kept an eye on me,” Bowen said. “And when the kids were young, she spent her time with family — we both did. Now, Glenda is the grandmother of the year, hands down.”

Some of the things Glenda admires most about her husband are his heart, his strong faith in God, and his deep love for his family and friends.  

“When I worked for the company, I watched how he tried so hard to take care of every customer,” she said. “He tried really hard to please everyone. Jim is the most generous person I’ve ever known. He’s always going to give and give as much as he can, not only of his time, but also his money. And, of course, he’s a wonderful father and always there for our kids, in every way.”

His mother instilled in him at an early age to give back to his community, Bowen said. She volunteered for Providence Hospital Auxiliary, Friends for Life, Meals on Wheels and St. Louis Church and she brought this awareness to Jim early in life. Youth sports — which was so impactful to him as a kid — was the perfect way to give his time, while also being there for his own children.

Jim coached youth sports for more than 16 years and was faithful in maintaining the Lake Air Little League lighting for more than 35 years.

“I really enjoyed coaching my kids,” Bowen said. “From family center basketball and soccer to baseball and softball at Lake Air Little League. I also coached Reicher JV baseball, Reicher golf and St. Louis 8th grade girls basketball.”

Bowen also volunteered electrical work for summer remodeling projects at Reicher Catholic High School and St. Louis Elementary School. 

Besides delivering Meals on Wheels two or three times  a week, Bowen also is active and supportive in Habitat for Humanity, Caritas,  Mission Waco, Comfort Crew for Kids and the Salvation Army. The Waco Boys and Girls Club is close to Jim’s heart where he’s been on the board for 17 years and has spent many hours volunteering, whether helping to maintain the facilities or raising funds, because he believes children need the support it provides.

When it comes to giving back, Bowen’s greatest passion is the Bowen Family Foundation, for which he is one of the founding board members.

“Our focus is on healing children and families,” Bowen said. “We seek out and support the most impactful and effective ways to connect children and families with love, support, resources and opportunities to help get them on a path to a better life.”

The Bowen’s son, country music singer/songwriter Wade Bowen, created the foundation, using his influence in the music industry to give back to Central Texas youth.   

Since 2013, the foundation has been awarding money to local non-profits. The Bowen Music Fest recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and continues to break records each year. Some of the non-profits receiving grants were CASA, Compassion Ministries, Brazos Higher Education Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Waco and Inspiracion, just to name a few. The Bowen Family Foundation has raised close to $5 million to date. In 2018, the Bowen Family Foundation was awarded the Outstanding Foundation from the AFP of Central Texas.

“We have tried to teach our children by example that it’s important to help others in any way that you can,” he said. “Most of us don’t realize how many non-profits there are in the Waco area and each one of them has a need for volunteers and financial assistance. Our children learn by example and they also learn by being exposed to people in need. Giving back is just what being part of the human race is all about.”

Bowen’s daughter, Jill, describes her dad as a behind-the-scenes man who is always looking out for others, but never wants recognition.

“He just does what he does and doesn’t want a lot of fanfare,” she said. “He’s humble and understated. He does things for the right reason. Like he always taught us, you don’t get a prize for doing the right thing. And now I’m saying that to my kids.”

The Bowens are both members of St. Louis Catholic Church. They are active in the Central Texas ACTS program (Adoration, Community, Technology and Service), which is inspired by the apostles in Acts 2:42-47, and their fellowship of believers. Jim is a part of the St. Louis Catholic Church Sunday Breakfast Ministry.

Golf is a big part of Bowen’s life and he feels the people in Waco and the surrounding area are very fortunate to have four fun golf courses in Ridgewood Country Club, Lake Waco Golf Club, Bear Ridge Golf Club and the highly ranked municipal Cottonwood Creek Golf Course, which he is proud to say is operated by the City of Waco.

“We also are fortunate that Top Golf will be opening soon,” he said.

Bowen finds great enjoyment in reading, riding horses with his children and grandchildren at  the family farm near Mart, Texas and attending Wade’s concerts. He’s even been invited up on stage a time or two, which he claims not to love one bit.

“We attend as many of Wade’s concerts as we can,” Bowen said. “That’s something our entire family loves to do, especially Glenda. In fact, she never made a kick-off, tip-off or opening pitch of any of our kids’ games, but if there’s a concert, she has to be there two hours early.”

The couple recently attended two small venue concerts after almost a year of not getting to see their favorite artist on stage.

Bowen said he thinks there’s definitely been a message about family and how we spend our time in the tumultuous year the country and the world have faced this past year.

“I think, among other things, God told the world that we need to slow down,” he said. “We weren’t able to be together in huge family gatherings, but we did get together in small groups as a family. Glenda and I had a lot more togetherness. We witnessed a lot of different effects over the past year. Not being able to attend close friends’ funerals was hard. We had a grandson’s wedding that was postponed twice. Babies were born and you couldn’t touch them.” 

From all that happened, Bowen said he is hopeful that we’ve all learned the things that are most important and that we need to put God back in our lives. 

“Half a million deaths in the country is pretty catastrophic,” he said.  

As the world — and the community — begins to emerge from a year of suffering, Bowen said he’s proud to serve as an ambassador for Waco, a place for which he cares a great deal. Daughter Jill said her dad is “all things Waco,” so there’s not a better guy to be the first Festival on the Brazos Ambassador.

“I like Waco because we do have a slower pace here,” he said. “We’re an awesome community with a lot to offer, especially great for raising families. The growth in the last few years has been phenomenal. And let’s not forget Chip and Joanna. But mostly, it’s about the people and the friendliness of our community. That’s the greatest thing we have.”