James E. "Big Jim" Folsom, 1908-1987



James E. "Big Jim" Folsom, 1908-1987


Folsom, James Elisha, 1908 - 1987


"Big Jim" Folsom campaigns for governor. The man on the left holding the newspaper is Henry Van Lewis Sr. An agent for GM&O railroad, George G. Franks, is sitting on the windowsill and wearing a hat. The man on the far right in overalls is Clem Clay.

James E. "Big Jim" Folsom, Sr. was only the second person to serve two full terms as governor of Alabama, from 1947 to 1951 and from 1955 to 1959.

Folsom was born on October 9, 1908 near Elba in Coffee County. He briefly attended the University of Alabama and Howard College (now Samford University). He left school in 1929 and worked as a merchant sailor, doorman at a New York theater, and boxing sparring partner. He returned to Alabama in the early 1930s and became active in politics losing his first election for a position on the state convention on prohibition. In 1936 he married Sarah Carnley with whom he had two children. He ran for and lost the election to the US Congress also in 1936. He then moved to Cullman in North Alabama.

Folsom ran for governor in 1942 and placed second after Chauncey Sparks. During World War II Folsom served briefly in the U.S. Army before being released because of his height (he was 6 foot 8 inches tall). He then joined the U.S. Merchant Marine, which he left when his wife Sarah died in 1944 from complications related to pregnancy. Two years later he met Jamelle Moore during his successful campaign for governor. The two were married in 1948, and the couple had seven children.

Folsom's 1946 gubernatorial victory came after running an innovative campaign on an extraordinarily tight budget. In his speeches, he emphasized populist. Folsom stood for election for governor again in 1954, the first time allowed by the 1901 Constitution. He ran against seven credible candidates and defeated them without a runoff.

His oldest son, James E. "Little Jim" Folsom Jr., has been the most successful, serving as public service commissioner and lieutenant governor, and succeeding to the governorship upon the felony conviction of Governor Guy Hunt.

See more at: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/


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