Admiral Joe Fowler Riverboat was named for a retired Naval Admiral who played an important part in the building of Walt Disney World. Admiral Fowler had run the San Francisco naval shipyard during WW II, when Walt Disney was looking for a naval expert to help with the building of the Mark Twain Steamship in 1954 for the then under-construction Disneyland. He found the retired Admiral supervising the construction of tract homes in the San Francisco region, and hired him as the construction boss for the whole Disneyland project. After Disneyland was completed, Fowler stayed on as General Manager of the park for its first 10 years, and assisted with the construction of Walt Disney World. He retired from the Disney organization in 1978, though he continued as a consultant.
When a second steamship was added to the Rivers of America in 1975, it was named for imagineer Richard F. Irvine. The original Fowler was damaged during a refurbishment at dry dock in 1980. The Disney company decided that having two steamships in the Magic Kingdom was not necessary, so the Fowler was broken up for scrap, and its whistle was refitted to the Richard F. Irvine Riverboat. But in 1981, the Admiral Joe Fowler's whistle was moved to the Walt Disney World Railroad #4 the "Roy O. Disney" steam train.
In 1999, one of the ferries that crosses the Seven Seas Lagoon taking guests from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom was renamed in his honor. It was originally known as the Magic Kingdom I and is the one with the green side panels.