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Author: Folsom, James, interviewee
Interview conducted by Waid, Candace Tullos, Allen
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 104 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-31, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974. Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0319)
Author: Candace Waid and Allen Tullos
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974. Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0319)
Author: James Folsom
Description: 198 Mb
Description: 28 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 28, 1974, by Candace Waid and Allen Tullos; recorded in Cullman, Alabama.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974.
Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Folsom, James, interviewee


Interview Participants

    JAMES FOLSOM, interviewee
    CANDACE WAID, interviewer
    ALLEN TULLOS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ALLEN TULLOS:
We thought that we might begin by getting you to talk some about your background and what you remember and what you have been told about where your people came from, and about growing up in south Alabama.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, of course, my Folsom people, they originally landed in Boston. My Folsom forebearer and his wife and his wife's family, along with several families, left Hingham, England . . . I guess a port near Hingham, over some difference in the church. They got stood up in the church and they left in 1638 and landed in Boston the same year. They are pretty well scattered over New England, they are pretty dominant in New Hampshire now. His wife's name . . . I forget their name, but it is a very prominent one in New England. His wife's name . . . from 1638, there would be a lot of hand-down from now, you see.
CANDACE WAID:
How did your family come South?
JAMES FOLSOM:
I imagine . . . the Folsom family history is full of Revolutionary Folsoms in there, and I imagine that there was a lot of them that came down and had land granted to them on account of their war service and so forth. And my great-grandaddy, he come to Georgia. He was in the Revolutionary War, a veteran. He came after the war and then his family spread on out . . . He had a brother, I think, that settled somewhere else. But they started scattering out from New Hampshire and Massachusetts a long time before the Revolution.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Well, how did you all get settled around Elba, Alabama?

Page 2
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, you see, Georgia was a state and the state of Georgia extended to the Mississippi River. And then they set up the Mississippi Territory and there was a big fuss about that. The Yazoo Fraud, they called it. My great-granddaddy operated a ferry boat over there between Alabama and Georgia, as I understand it, right across from Abbeville, Alabama. And he raised three boys. One was named Thomas Jefferson Folsom, the other one was named David Something Folsom and the other was named Elisha Folsom. That's who I'm named after. I am named after my granddaddy, Elisha Folsom. But there were three of them and their daddy had run off with one of the Indian maids, as I understand it, to Oklahoma, when they shipped them to Oklahoma. I don't know about that, I know that the Oklahoma Indians in about 1914, I believe it was, or '15. Before my first grade . . . it was when a Packard automobile was the automobile. Now, you don't remember that far back. But back in 1915, '16, '17, the automobile. There just wasn't no such thing as a Cadillac, we never heard of one. And the first time that I remember any of them coming to Alabama was with a group of Indians who had three Packard automobiles and they stopped in front of the house. Pa was in the courthouse. And of course, being Indians, part-Indians, I guess that they felt it was best to walk over to the courthouse rather than to ride. And they stopped in front of the house and I got to know them all. I mean, I got to play with them while . . . strange to me though, they were Indians. They went on to the courthouse and then come on back and I imagine that they were going over to the old homeplace. When Indians come back there, they like to do that. They came from around Macon, Georgia, originally. He commanded a company of Cherokee Indians during the Civil War. I mean, during the War of 1812. I don't know whether he was a Revolutionary

Page 3
or not. Either his daddy was or he was or one or the other. But he commanded a . . . my great-granddaddy did . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
Your father was a tax collector for several years, wasn't he?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah. Three times. County Commissioner one terms or two terms, I don't know which, and his brother was sheriff. My Pa was deputy sheriff. And my granddaddy on the other side, I know more about him than I do about my Folsom people. His name was Dunavent. I thought that it was Irish, but it's not. It's bound to be Dutch. He got into some of the mix-ups whenever the Spanish had charge of the Dutch. I don't know, but he got to America and he was in the first class of William and Mary. He and his grandsons were in on Benedict Arnold's courtmartial. I don't know what position they played, but they served on the courtmartial. I don't know what they did, but that's . . . then my granddaddy come to Alabama and he is descended from that bunch. That's how I got to be in Alabama and got to be governor of Alabama.
CANDACE WAID:
I'd like to hear about your growing up in Elba, about your mother and father and how you decided to run for political office and what influenced you to do that and how you first began to think that you might do that when you were growing up.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, going from school to the house was right by the the office, we walked right across the square and right by my Pa's office. And I would go to Papa's office before I ever started to school. It was a matter of necessity, I guess. My mama was having a baby, my younger sister and she had a hard time with her for five or six months, seven months, something

Page 4
like that, the baby and Mama, too. And I spent a lot of time over at Pa's office. We had a black woman there keeping the house. And she would be busy and I would get into motion and go over to the courthouse with Papa. And I would go with him everywhere he went, just about. For a long time before I ever started to school. I just learned it right there, before I ever started to school . . . I learned politics before I ever started to school. I don't know how I got started at it. I guess that it was going to the courthouse for those eight or nine months that Mama was disabled.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Now, you went for several years . . . you sailed out from Mobile, you took a trip for about three or four years. You were about seventeen or eighteen years old and . . .
JAMES FOLSOM:
Another thing I want to say about that disabled . . . about my Pa. For just as long as I can remember, politicians from all the county . . . you see, Pa moved to the county seat when I was one year old and politicians from all over the county would come there and spend the night. And they would sit up by the fire and talk politics and spit tobacco juice and I would sit right there. Well, I went to sleep every night as a young'un right there. But, I did it. I don't know why I did it, but I did. And I've got a boy that's like that. He's here in the office now. He was acting just like I was when I was a boy. Well, he is working . . . going to the University in Birmingham and working for Senator Sparkman and now he has shifted over and is working for Jim Allen, in the School of Education and working in the Senator's office at the same time.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Well, what did you think about going to school? Did you like to go to school?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh yeah, yes. I enjoyed it. I wasn't a brilliant scholar.

Page 5
I just made routine grades and probably from just being there regular. But I had the same schooling privileges and so forth that the average boy or girl does in the average county seat in the United States. So, there was nothing unusual about it, just the same as the average. You were talking about when I went to sea . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
That's right.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, we had a major flood in my hometown of Elba and it washed the town away, the banks went broke and just left Mama with the farm, no other assets. And I just never did go back to school. Papa had an old friend down at Mobile and I went down there and he knew the steamship line down there and got me a job . . . me and another boy there in town, he got us a job on the ship sailing out of New Orleans, this company that he was agent for. They called it the Dixie Steamship Line and we went to Italy, Naples and Leghorn and a lot of other places and I liked it. And I just kept on going until the Hoover Depression was over. And when it was over, I came home and began to look around and try to locate myself a job. They were just starting this relief program and I got, I just went up and asked them in Montgomery. I went to the State Manager . . . the State Work Relief Director, they called him. I looked at that and said, "Well, now, he's the State Director, he's the head man. I will just go see the damn head man." He had just appointed a man in my county as county director and incidentally, the second man he appointed was in this county. My county was the first county on account of it being a flood county and the second county was this county right here, Cullman County, which I didn't know at that time. And I went up and told him that I wanted a job. He asked me if I knew anything

Page 6
about road building and I told him that, "Yeah, my Pa was a county commissioner. He was a county commissioner before I was born." He died when I was ten years old and I didn't know nothing about road building, but I told him that I did. So, I went back home and the next day, they called me on the telephone. They had some trouble up in Guntersville, the adjoining county from here, right on Guntersville Lake. They called me and they promised me a job for thirty days, that's all they could do. I didn't know how long I was going to be there. They put me in at County Work Relief Director up there and they created this Civil Works Administration and I was the director of that. So, I stayed there for two years. They then also created the Works Project Administration and I was a director for that. Then, I maneuvered around and got up to Washington.
CANDACE WAID:
How did that happen? You had been working on these government jobs, how did you get up to Washington?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, I was pretty independent about my work, I made a pretty good record, and they knew it. And they were reorganizing it into the Farm Security Administration and turned it over to another group. And the other group wanted their crowd, you see, and I saw that they were going to leave me out. So, I just went up to Washington and when they were setting up the WPA up there . . . that's when they were organizing the WPA nationwide, the Works Projects Administration they called it, with rural rehabilitation and everything down there. And they split it all up and made one the Farm Security Administration and the other the Works Projects Administration. So, I just went up to Washington and got a letter of endorsement from the congressman and went up there and told them I was a candidate for a director's job. I just told the head man that was in charge of the whole business in the United

Page 7
States, and they had me there in the front office. Of course, I was a clerk, but I was in the front office. I knew it from the ground up, you see. That's the way I got up there.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How long did you stay in Washington?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Long enough to get fired. [Laughter]
ALLEN TULLOS:
How was it that you got fired?
JAMES FOLSOM:
I was going to night school, taking public speaking at George Washington University. I went to school and worked in September and got fired in January. But it really was a changeover. Did you ever hear of a fellow named Eisenhower? He was working under General MacArthur, who was going to the Philippines. A fellow, Daniel C. Noce, he was an engineering officer in the army, he was a major then. He had charge of all the landings in World War II over in France. He had charge of the whole business. He was just a major then and he come over and took my boss's seat. My boss was ex-city manager from St. Petersburg, Florida, I believe . . . Tampa, Florida, or somewhere. Ex-city manager, I believe. And they wanted to put military men in. And then they sent five first lieutenants over there and they were all army folks and one of them took my place. And they had me out a job and I came home and qualified for Congress. I didn't have nothing else to do.
CANDACE WAID:
Well, you had been planning . . . was that the reason that you had been taking your public speaking course, as political development?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, I had taken it in my previous college courses and that was the reason, yeah. I had planned to go right on through and get a degree in law, more or less in law, down at George Washington University. That's what I had planned to do. General Eisehower got transferred to the Philippines and [unclear], his man . . . they were all together, you know, in the front office. And Eisenhower then was a major, too, or had just been made a colonel. They just

Page 8
wanted the WPA run on a more army basis, that's what they wanted it done on. And I guess that maybe it was right, I don't know, I don't think it was. They done me a big favor, anyway, it cost me a lot of time and worry about going hungry, but I wound up the governor twice.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What do you remember about that first race for Congress? Who was your opponent in that race?
JAMES FOLSOM:
A fellow by the name of Stegall, head of the Banking and Currency Committee. He was my congressman, you see, I had come from down there and . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
He was the one who had given you the letter?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah. No, not then. Let's see . . . did he? No, he didn't. They weren't even up there, it was in recess, not in session. Hugo Black refused to give me a letter. He had already recommended somebody from that county. I know that he recommended my brother for some job and he didn't want to do it for two in the family. But Senator Bankhead did and the congressman from Mobile did. And the congressman from Mobile had just been elected, he was new and he gave me the letter. That was it. My congressman just wasn't there, that's the reason that I didn't get a letter from him.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JAMES FOLSOM:
. . . he's the one that wrote the Deposit Insurance Law, you see that in every bank. The bank deposits are insured, in yours and mine.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Well, did you think that you could beat him in the election?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Hell, I didn't know. He was old, sixty or fifty-five years old. I thought that was old then. I thought that he was an old man and he could be beat. That was my opinion. I was twenty-six, you know. I said that I was

Page 9
going to be my best and I got up to about 43% or 44% of the vote. I gave him a good scare.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And then you ran again two years later, is that right?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, but I was living in north Alabama then. I just put my name on the ballot because I had run before and I knew that somebody else was going to run and I decided that if they were going to give it away, they might as well give it to me. I didn't put much effort into it the second time.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You were selling insurance at this time, in north Alabama?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, I was organizing an insurance business up here in north Alabama. Had a little insurance company in my hometown and unfortunately, all the stockholders banded together, the majority of them, and controlled the interests and sold it to an outside company later on. Finally, I was supposed to see my little interest in it. I didn't have much interest in the thing, but my brother-in-law was one of the seven original stockholders in it and he is the one that got me organizing in north Alabama and that's the way I got up here. Ordinarily, it is a hard task, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It let me learn the ways and means of north Alabama, the problems and how they had been left out. North of Birmingham, they had been left out of roads, left out on schools and left out on everything. They had been left out on reapportionment. Half the population in Alabama was north of Birmingham, north of First Ave., half of the population is north of the center of Birmingham. But, there was one senator north of Birmingham, one county senator that could succeed himself. All the rest of those little old counties up there didn't have any legislature votes. After I was up here, I could see the injustice of it. They weren't getting any roads in there and there was a reason, they didn't have any representation. That's the reason that I ran for governor,

Page 10
so that we could get equal our representation in the state legislature.
ALLEN TULLOS:
That was in 1942, when you first ran.
JAMES FOLSOM:
And that speech turned that, and the final case decided in Alabama . . . it started in 1942, and was decided in every state in the union except Alabama, and Alabama was the last one, which was with the last Novemeber election, and I reckon that the court has issued the final decree on it. But it was started in 1942 and ended in 1974. That's how long it took. Now, that's how long it is going to take on . . . I hope not, but I am afraid that it is going to take about that long on . . . a man practicing law in the legislature and practicing law in the courtroom, too, that's a plain conflict, you see. And of course, I've been onto that issue all along. There's an organization that's been started recently called Common Cause. They've adopted my position on that. Have you ever heard of Common Cause?
CANDACE WAID:
Yes sir.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Have you read the book?
CANDACE WAID:
Yes. I've also read one of your speeches where you've talked about that being a conflict of interests that would always be there with a lawyer in the courtroom and . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
Now, another thing that was related to that was the poll tax and you fought for a long time to do away with the poll tax in Alabama and that took a long time.
CANDACE WAID:
That was a very independent position in Alabama at that time. How did you come by that?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, that was the Congress advocating those things back in 1947. You know my position. In other words, everybody's a Communist from 1917 until we recognized Russia, started dealing with Russia and China, why everybody

Page 11
was a Communist who disagreed . . . a fellow that wanted majority rule was a damn Communist. There wasn't no question about it with anybody. And my opposition didn't believe in majority rule, so, to them, I was a radical of the worst sort. Now, how in the hell can a man be a radical who believes in the Constitution as it was written? In 1947, all I wanted was just like the one man, one vote decision says. That's all I wanted. I didn't want anything else. And to put ladies on the jury, all those things. I advocated right along as I went. And everything that has come to pass that I went out for were things that were needed. And the separation of powers, it will come. But one man, one vote . . . reapportionment, it's going to bring on the separation of powers.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Now, in the 1942 campaign, you didn't use the band, the hillbilly band, the Strawberry Pickers that you later used. Is that right? You first used the band in the '46 campaign for governor.
JAMES FOLSOM:
I used in '46, I used it in '54 and I used it in the '62 campaign.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you get that idea . . .
JAMES FOLSOM:
I haven't really put on a campaign since '62. That campaign, I got poisoned and blind in this eye right here, had a busted blood vessel in my head. And that stayed there for two and a half years.
CANDACE WAID:
How did all of that happen?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, I was on television and it happened. You tell me, and I'll buy you a big ice cream.
CANDACE WAID:
That's my favorite.
JAMES FOLSOM:
It busted a blood vessel in my head and it stayed bleeding there for two and a half years and they corrected that. But all that put a strain on

Page 12
my heart and later on, four years ago, they had to put a new valve in my heart. So, I'm alive, just eye is all. But that's just politics, you know. Like George Wallace getting shot, that's politics. You know, they did it with Abraham Lincoln and . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
Another thing that you were well known for was the suds bucket. Where did you get that idea?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, I just wanted to change what you are seeing come about over the South, representative change. And I got a mop and suds bucket to represent the change. And you used to use it to scour the kitchen, I remember it myself, you've probably read about it, I used to help scour it. You scoured it on Saturday and it just cleaned it and brought a hue to it for Sunday's dinner and the rest of the week. You had to scour that thing once a week. I had to have some way of financing my campaign, I didn't have any money. My opposition was pretty well organized, two groups of them. A group of bankers and politicians in one group and another group of bankers and state politicians in another. I was just sitting around talking to some people like I am to you now, and I told one of my friends to get a band up and he got it up. And we were getting ready to start out and I said, "Now, what I want you to do is to get me an old corn husk mop and two old oaken buckets." He didn't listen to me and I finally had to get off and whisper to him what I wanted them for. He got them and put them in the car and didn't tell anybody what they were for. We had enough money to go for one day. We had a hundred dollars, that's what we had. I didn't know whether we would be able to go the next day or not. I made four speeches. The opening speech on Saturday and on Monday morning, we started out with a hundred dollars and we spoke at Falkville up here and then other little

Page 13
towns, Hartselle, the county seat of Lawrence, Moulton, and then at Decatur that night. And we didn't pass the bucket. And the next day, we paid the hotel bills that night for that many boys, five or six or seven of us and well, I had to do something. I didn't know whether it was going to bring me any money or not. I told them what I wanted to do, I called them in and I said, "We are going to pass that bucket." I got up and made a little speech, "Put in the suds, and I'll do the scrubbing. I am going to clean that capitol out down there. There is a green breeze out of the north, I'm going to fly all the way down through there"—of course, I considered myself the green breeze out of the north—"open up the windows of that capitol, let in a green breeze of the north fly through there, and you will have the cleanest, greenest smell that you ever saw in your life." Well, they knew what a green breeze was. Well, it was just like my Ma scouring with a broom when I was a kid. That's that story.
Now, you all are letting me talk too long on one subject, maybe we'd better move along.
CANDACE WAID:
No, I think that this is really interesting. In fact, I would like to hear more about your mother and how she influenced your spirit.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Who, my mama?
CANDACE WAID:
Yeah.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh, one of my regrets of my life is that she didn't live to see me be governor. I didn't realize that she was as old as she was and she come up here to help look after the house. She had a disability, a stroke and got disabled and then went home and died during that campaign.
CANDACE WAID:
This was the '46 campaign?
JAMES FOLSOM:
It's one of the regrets of my life that I didn't send my children

Page 14
down there to school and let my sister look after them. But that's politics, too. Her granddaddy was a Revolutionary, but you see, he was on Benedict Arnold's courtmartial and his brother was, too. She believed in going ahead. She always told all of us, "Don't get in politics, that's the worst thing you can do." But, it never did do any good. She told me not long before she died, she said . . . I had run second for governor in '42, and she said, "You are going to be elected governor." She said, "All you have to do is just behave yourself and you will be elected. I know how hard you have worked. That's going to elect you."
ALLEN TULLOS:
The first election that you won was to go as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention . . .
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, I was off at sea then on a troop ship.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You won the election while you were gone?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, well, I was elected while I was on a troop ship running from New York to New Orleans to Puerto Rico and back . . . not Puerto Rico, but . . . yeah, it was Puerto Rico. We dropped a bunch of troops. We had a bunch of English and Australian sailors that we were going to drop off down in the West Indies. And when I got to New Orleans, I was elected and so, I got off the ship and went to the convention. And my wife died at that time. That's another one of my regrets. She had had two babies, one of them Caesarean and she got pregnant with the other one. I came home so glad to see her and everything and I guess that she was glad to see me and she got pregnant again and her blood pressure just shot right up and she didn't live any time. She died before I went to the convention.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You cast your vote for Henry Wallace in that convention, is that right?

Page 15
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, I was going along with the Roosevelt administration, more or less. I had run, they put my name on the ballot here while I was off at sea and I didn't think anything about being elected. None of the other candidates put their name on the ballot, but I wasn't scared to put mine on there. But the other fellows that were running for governor, they wouldn't put theirs on. One of them was commissioner of agriculture and one of them was lieutenant governor. And so, I thought that the thing for me to do, they were out claiming that they had it all sewed up over the state, this was 1944 and I just agreed with my crowd to put my name on the ballot and hell, they just did it. I run second. There were four statewide races being elected and I was number two of the four. The governor was on there, and me and the congressman from Mobile and Senator John Bankhead. Us four was elected.
ALLEN TULLOS:
John Bankhead was a favorite son candidate for that . . .
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, he had become a favorite son, that's right. He did and I cast the courtesy vote for him the first time. But Governor Arnall of Georgia was Roosevelt's appointed man, floor manager, for the southeastern states. And Alabama was one of them. Well, they kind of bypassed Governor Arnall in some way or another. Roosevelt had gone home and then that's when they pulled that sleight of hand and left Governor Arnall out and attempted to leave me out, but the damn son-of-a-bitch didn't do it. I went ahead and voted for Henry Wallace after I voted the courtesy vote for Senator Bankhead. I voted for Henry Wallace. Now, I told President Truman about this, too. He knew about it and he understood it. I voted for Henry Wallace like I thought that we were supposed to. They had pulled a sleight of hand deal there and the politicians and all got together and maybe President Roosevelt was in on

Page 16
it. He was sick at that time, you know that. And maybe he had agreed to it and I guess he had. What they had done was just a slick way of getting rid of Henry Wallace. But me, I was out in the cold, I didn't know about it. But I made it up to Harry Truman. I supported him when hardly any other governor in the United States would support him, when he was elected for a full term. I believe that there were three governors in the United States that supported him publicly when he was elected for a full term. There was me and the governor from Oklahoma and the governor from Missouri. Three Democrat governors, publicly, I'm talking about. Publicly endorsed him. I timed it where it would get the most effect. I publicly endorsed him on September 29th or somewhere in there, at the time it would get the most effect, about thirty days before the election. It put it into folks' minds there, that I had endorsed Truman. The governor of Oklahoma was with him all the time, he was the secretary of Truman-Barkley Club. He was a friend of mine. Like the buyer that loaded down too much fruit, it started breaking off.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
JAMES FOLSOM:
. . . down in Montgomery, he just stayed right where I went. Of course, I was busy politicking, I didn't know Hank. I just knew that he played at little night places out in the country, dances and so forth all around and Troy and down in there. That's what he was doing then. But old Hank, when he died, he said that he had picked for Big Jim, but I didn't know that he had picked in the band until he had done gone. They told me about it. He had been picking along with various bands and in various stands, you know, he would have his banjo. One of the last things that he told them, told one of my best friends in Montgomery, said, "I picked for old

Page 17
Big Jim the first time and I'm going to pick for him again." And that was about a week before he died. There is one thing that might be interesting, politically maybe and historically it would be interesting . . . getting away from the musical end of it.
My Grandpa Dunnavant was born in 1799. He married in Richmond, Virginia, in 1823. His first wife was a Handley and they moved to Alabama later on. The girl he married, it was published in the Richmond paper that time, she was pretty prominent. She was a Handley and he brought them to Alabama and she died and he had two or three boys by her, four boys . . . no, three boys and an adopted one. Raised them all. And then they started the Civil War and he was opposed to the Civil War. He was an Andrew Jackson leader when Andrew Jackson first started in politics and he stayed with him right on up. This is the way that I understand it. And whenever Andrew Jackson began to talk about slave-holding, about secession, well, Andrew Jackson denounced those that wanted it. He said that he would hang them by the tree there in South Carolina, Calhoun and such folks as that, you know. And he would have, too. And when Andrew Jackson died, my grandpa, around 1850, they had the Compromise in 1852, well, he didn't have but two slaves, he give them away, freed them. He had brought them with him from Virginia and his daddy had given them to him to get him started off. He freed his slaves and he was an abolitionist from then on. He was against slavery. And he would speak all over southeast Alabama against slavery from 1850, I guess, right on. And when the ordinance of secession was put to the vote of the people or something like that, whenever they were selecting their delegates to the secession convention, he campaigned against secession. Spoke all over southeast Alabama and he had some boys that were about my size. Some of them had children. And he had to carry them around to guard him. One of my uncles has told me about it, backing him up when he would speak in the

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country churches all over and places like that. He had to carry bodymen and he about started the damn Civil War right where he was speaking, all over south Alabama. He was speaking against secession.
CANDACE WAID:
You know, you yourself, Big Jim, were able to have some really independent ideas and before the Brown decision was even happening. I have read a speech of yours where you call for racial understanding. It was a Christmastime speech. Would you tell us about that and how you arrived at your ideas?
JAMES FOLSOM:
That was when I was governor?
CANDACE WAID:
Yes, you really were liberal on racial issues.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, I got that from my granddady and my mama and daddy.
CANDACE WAID:
And that was talked about in your family?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, my uncle told me about it and I had heard it. And Pa was just a politician, but he was dead and Mama was still living. Pa died in 1919. That abolition sentiment and then here in north Alabama, this Sandy Mountain plateau here, Winston County was the Free State of Winston and over here all up and down from here to Chattanooga . . . in fact, from here to West Virginia, this old mountain territory . . . this plateau goes from here to West Virginia and it is just a part of the Appalachian chain. And Abraham Lincoln said time and time again, not once but many times, that these people right in here in east Tennessee and western North Carolina and West Virginia were the most loyal people in the United States. Now, he said that time and time again. If he could have gotten troops in there earlier, he had to protect the capital or he would have gotten them in there earlier, you see . . . now, that's the reason that West Virginia was cut off. They

Page 19
were part of the mountain chain and they were just against secession. They wanted to be cut off from the state of Virginia and they were cut off and the Congress agreed to recognize it and Lincoln agreed to sign the necessary papers and it was made the state of West Virginia with two senators and one representative in the Congress. And they took their seats in 1863. It's a pity that north Alabama . . . at the Battle of Corinth, they could easily have established the state of North Alabama, but he couldn't have gotten to it. But he had troops here in Decatur in 1862 or 1863. He could have recognized North Alabama as a state.
Well, it's from my family and from history, too. See, I lived up here and I worked with these people and amongst them all, in the old Work Relief days and selling insurance. They are old Democrats. Most of them used to be Republican. They turned Republican after the Civil War, but they weren't real Republicans. But this plateau from West Virginia to right here were the most Democratic sections of the United States when Andrew Jackson was president. But it was the most Republican section of the United States after Lincoln . . . well, he was elected on an independent ticket the second time. He ran on a Save the Nation Ticket with his vice president from Tennessee, that was part of it. It was to save the nation, he wasn't interested in anything else.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Now, when you were governor, because of some of your beliefs about racial questions, weren't there some groups that tried to impeach you, the White Citizens Councils?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh, they tried everything. Why, they burned a cross right here in my front yard.
CANDACE WAID:
When was that, while you were governor?
JAMES FOLSOM:
No, it was last October or September. I happened to be over in Montgomery when Maddox got beat. Well, I don't know, but something come

Page 20
about that and I said, "Well, there's one thing, from now on, these politicians can't go out and be elected on 'Nigger, Nigger.' They've got to run on their own merits. The Georgia election ended it." And they burned a cross right on the corner of my yard down there. But there have been several of those burned. When I outlawed . . . I signed a law outlawing masks in Alabama, the Ku Klux masks and about ten other states followed it one right behind the other.
CANDACE WAID:
You know, politicians, even Hugo Black was a member of the Knights of KKK. It used to be a social thing for everyone that was interested in politics and even . . . of course, I'm very young, but just from the few things that I've read, to be a member of the Klan. You know, it was like being a church member. Could you talk to me about that? You were never a member of the Klan?
JAMES FOLSOM:
No, and I don't know that any of my family was ever a member of it.
CANDACE WAID:
That's very interesting, being politicians.
JAMES FOLSOM:
I don't know whether my daddy or granddaddy was ever, no, I don't think they were ever associated with the Klan. Oh, they could have been, because there were all kinds back then, you know. But I know that my daddy never was, he didn't believe in it. They just didn't run with the group. The one that endorsed the Klan's principles. And I never have. That's an old American custom, that Klan business. It's not an issue anymore. The race issue is not an issue anymore. You know why?
CANDACE WAID:
Why?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Out of the Alabama population, it's about twenty-four percent black. Well, it is scattered to such an extent that you can't, if every black . . . we'll

Page 21
just say theoretically that if every black in Alabama was to vote for a black and every white vote for a white, you couldn't elect over ten percent of the black people to the legislature. And ten percent of that would be fourteen of 144 members. And we've got fourteen black people in the legislature now, I believe. And that's as much as it can ever be if blacks vote black and whites vote white. It's not an issue. If you are going to make it a black and white issue, fourteen against 140 . . . well, fourteen out of 140, what in the hell are they going to attempt. You understand what I mean. That has deadened it more than any one thing.
CANDACE WAID:
You know, they compare your race with that of Kolb back during the Progressive era. He was a Populist. They compare the way you both got the north and south of the state, but he got formal Republican support at one point. I was wondering if you ever got formal Republican support or how you feel that your support ran with the Republicans in the north.
JAMES FOLSOM:
I got the rank and file Republicans, both times I was elected.
CANDACE WAID:
What was going on there that they chose you?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, now, the Republican leadership was against me. That's controlled out of the big interests in Birmingham, by the corporate interests, they controlled the party. And naturally, they were against me. And what influence that the leadership had, well . . . but the rank and file, I got. I got the rank and file in the Democratic party, too. I didn't get the leadership in the courthouse, I didn't get them. I finally had to go in there and take it, but that's the only way I could get it. The other folks thought that they had it sewed up. They thought that they sure had it, way ahead in the first primary. And you remember, I led the ticket in the

Page 22
first primary. And they never did get over that. I guess that's the reason. Now, Kolb . . . what state was he from?
CANDACE WAID:
He was in Alabama, it was a long time ago.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Kolby?
CANDACE WAID:
It's K-O-L-B-Y.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh, Kolb. Reuben Kolb. K-O-L-B.
CANDACE WAID:
You are certainly right.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, and hell, he got elected and they took it away from him, between me and you. They took it away from him. He got the same folks as I got and they took it away from him. That's the gossip, because I've got no proof of it, but the old timers just told me. They said that there was no question that they took it away from him. And after they took that away from him, then they set about to write them a damn constitution and they wrote them a dilly, too. We've got one of the worst in the United States, here in Alabama.
ALLEN TULLOS:
How would you work with members of the Alabama legislature when you were governor. How did you work to try to get the things that you wanted done, accomplished?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, when I first went down there, I was willing to do anything reasonable. I wanted them to give me a little and I would give them a little. I was going to stay with my reapportionment. But after they got down there, they looked on me as just an old country bumpkin, you know, and thought that I didn't know what it was all about. And they set up a bloc and I called a special session over a school bill, the distribution of education money, and I called a special session . . .
ALLEN TULLOS:
It was the old age pension, too, the welfare.

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JAMES FOLSOM:
Yeah, that and reapportionment. And then, they used that excuse to set up a bloc, that I was going to run the state. And they set up a bloc of twenty-three members that weren't going to vote for anything that I sponsored. And that was about in March or April or somewhere in there. Sure, I was young and didn't give a damn, you know and if they wanted a four-year filibuster, I had about eight fellow senators that were with me from north Alabama and we would just filibuster for four years. We got one new statewide amendment through, that was the hospital amendment. That was about the only thing that we got through other than routine legislation and local bills and so forth. They were putting in bills to take all the power out of the governor's office and all of that.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Well, did you feel, when you got through with your two terms, that you had been able to achieve, to put into law any of the proposals that you had set out to do?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, yeah. All of them have come to pass, some of them that I didn't pass. I didn't get my abolition of poll tax through, the court did that for me. I didn't get my one man, one vote through, the court did that for me. I didn't get reapportionment, but my friends in Tennessee had followed my campaign pretty close and they got one through with court rule up there. And one man, one vote, that went nationwide. Oh, there are things that I wished I hadn't signed that went through, too.
CANDACE WAID:
What were some of those, that you signed and wished you hadn't.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh, well, I thought of one the other day . . .
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
JAMES FOLSOM:
. . . I don't know any specific . . . there's one. The county used to buy the right-of-ways and they got a slow job done and I was in a hurry with the highway work. And to hurry it up, I decided to let the Highway Department buy the damn right-of-ways and get it done in a hurry. Now, they made racket out of it. They made a racket out of it before I left office, they charged too much for the highway right-of-ways and changed the right-of-ways . . . things like that. Nothing major, but a lot of minor little things that I wish to hell I hadn't signed and wouldn't sign if I had it to do over again. But every governor and every president has got that. Eisenhower told me that he had some that he had signed that he wished he could call back.
CANDACE WAID:
Well, I was wondering . . . in the beginning of your '46 administration, you talked about "trust-busting," or breaking down monopolies or have them pay their fair share of taxes and also with the oil companies and all. I wanted you to talk to me about that and I was also wondering if you ever knew Huey Long, if you heard him or met him and what you thought about him?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, I came into Louisiana in that damn ship when he was governor and I was a great admirer of his and I read his book. He was the first, I guess, to carry a hillbilly band with him . . . didn't he carry a band with him?
ALLEN TULLOS:
I think that Jimmy Davis did.
JAMES FOLSOM:
Didn't Huey have one, too? But I think they were horn bands. The Texas man, Pappy O'Daniel was a horn and string band, too. But mine was completely a string band, nothing professional about it, just country boys, that's the way I done it. They call it a hillbilly band, well, I look at the old political gatherings throughout my political life all over the United States and . . . Abraham Lincoln speeches with that senator in 1858, they had bands and everything like that. Political music is just as American as apple pie. But

Page 25
it had drifted out of style and it got to be where it was a parlor game, just the elite played it. And here, Long brought it back out to the street corners. Then, the next one was Pappy O'Daniel in Texas. He was more or less an independent and he had a horn band and he passed the bucket—"Pass the Biscuits Pappy," that's what he was. And the next was Jimmy Davis. I served with him as he was going out, as he was going out, I served with him one year. And he had . . . he was a singer and a teacher of music and I guess that his was mostly instrumental and string . . . wasn't it? Well, a genuine string band, that's what mine was. Nothing professional about it. And it just jumped up. I've read some press quotes of my opposition in that campaign they called me, [unclear], that's it, and everything else. But I was getting the votes and they knew it and there wasn't any way that they could stop it.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And you used to talk about the "got rocks" and the "big mules." Who did you mean by that? Who were you talking about?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, that was when I was in office, but I still talk about them. What I mean is that I was governor, drawing $6,000 a year and they took my expense account away from me, I was supposed to be the most important official in Alabama and they took it away from me and I was having to pass the bucket to make up expenses, even to go to the presidential inauguration. People that were fighting me were the banks, and the Woodward Iron Company and the Tennessee Iron Company and all the big corporations, they were fighting the hell out of me. I called them "got rocks", that's what they were. They had the rocks and I didn't have any.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Some of the big city newspapers, like Birmingham, they were fighting you, too, weren't they?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh, God. All of them were. All of them were fighting me. There wasn't any messing around about it. Well, you've read it all, haven't you? It's

Page 26
a matter of record. The University of North Carolina has got it all up there, I guess. Do they have all the political types of the daily press, do they have the photostats and so forth? I'll tell you one thing you should look forward to . . . the big issue from here on out for the rest of my life is going to be that if you practice law in the courtroom, you vacate your license before you go into the legislature.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Now, you were a supporter of George McGovern in the last election. Why did you support him?
JAMES FOLSOM:
Well, he was a Democrat and I was head of the Democratic Party two times. That's the number one reason. He was on the ticket. I don't care who they put on there, I was supporting him, because I had headed the party. Now, whenever I get ready to not support somebody they have there, then I'll leave the party, that's the time that I leave the party. But I don't want to leave the party that I've headed twice.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You shared many of his views about political philosophy, didn't you? You agreed with him on . . .
JAMES FOLSOM:
Oh, certainly, certainly. Absolutely. Well, undoubtedly, the American public agrees with me, Nixon got impeached and McGovern got elected about a month later. Don't you think that the American people agreed with me in two places, there? [interruption] . . . being a Democratic nominee, or any other nominee, I would have voted the straight ticket and left the president vacant if we didn't have a nominee, but I just voted right on. I would have voted for most people against Nixon. I don't see how a man can be elected president and go as high as he went . . . he had to be crooked on a lot of things. [interruption] . . . yeah, I put it on the record every chance I get. The government is set up with three branches, legislative,

Page 27
judicial and executive, the separation of powers, they call it. By personal experience, I know . . . and I want this on the record and it can be used by anybody that wants to use it. The greatest fraud that I found in eight years as governor, by ninety-five percent . . . ninety-five percent of the fraud was by the ability of a lawyer to sit in the legislature and also practice law in the courtroom. That's ninety-five percent of the fraud in your government. And until that is corrected and we have a separation of powers, we'll never have anything but corrupt government. You couldn't have all this government trouble that we've got in Washington and with the president now, he wouldn't be in all the trouble that he's in, unless there is all that fraud. All of this with giving money away all over the world.
Well, naturally, each congressman and senator has got agents up there in on the giveaway. I don't say that they are in on it. I know that I would be if I was voting for it and I was a congressman or senator, I wouldn't have an agent, I would just take my share and have it put in a Swiss bank and go. You understand? Now, if I was a congressman or a senator and I was going to vote for that, just to give money away to every undemocratic society in the world, after our people have fought as hard as they have for democracy . . . if I was a congressman up there and voted to give those corrupt South American countries a hundred million dollars, whatever my percentage was, I would just have it earmarked for a Swiss bank. And if it was to Argentina or Brazil or Peru, any of those countries that we have been dealing with, or any of those African nations, any of them, I would just have my share. I wouldn't have any agent, I would just say, "Send it to my agent in Switzerland." And I would vote for the bill, but, "I won't vote for it until I know that my share is earmarked and I'm going to get it." And a congressman or a senator that is not doing that is a damn idiot. You understand? And there ain't many idiots up there. Damn

Page 28
few idiots up there. That's three hundred billion dollars that my people and your people have worked for. It has ruined our nation. That's the major thesis that I've had ever since I was first elected. I made a speech at the courthouse square on September 30, 1946, before I was inaugurated, three and a half months before, and I denounced it then and I have denounced it everytime since. And at that time, I was called a Communist and I guess that I was a Communist. I don't know, whatever it is I was, well, I was against that. I wasn't giving them no money. I just believe in majority rule and if that is Communist, well, I'm a Communist. And the majority of the people won't vote to give that money away. They won't do it.
Now, I want to repeat again, if I was a congressman or a United States senator and voted to give that money away to dictatorships . . . now, I'm not talking about democratic societies, there are some in the world. I believe that Finland is and the United States is democratic. England is not, Australia is a dependency, they've got a governor-general and all that . . . of course, South America, theoretically, they are democratic, but they are not . . . France is democratic, West Germany is, I guess, self-governing. Any self-governing, I exclude them, but to give money to a dictatorship or a non-self governing nation, if I voted as a congressman to give it to them, I would want my cut set aside and any congressman up there that doesn't set it aside for his own personal benefit, he is an idiot. He ought to be put in the insane asylum, because he is destroying our nation and he isn't getting no benefit out of it himself. There is something wrong. Do you understand what I mean? Huh? Do you, lady?
CANDACE WAID:
Yes sir, I hear you.
END OF INTERVIEW