Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974. Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Views on majority rule, separation of powers, and national political trends

Folsom briefly discusses his admiration of Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long, specifically in relationship to his own efforts in "trust-busting." In addition, Folsom explains how Long similarly used a hillbilly band in his own campaigns. Folsom proceeds to discuss his belief in the importance of majority rule and the separation of powers. Arguing that he was perceived as a radical during his tenure in state politics, Folsom discusses his thoughts on national politics and identifies what he saw as lingering obstacles to the separation of power at the time of the interview in 1974.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James Folsom, December 28, 1974. Interview A-0319. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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?
JIM 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.
JIM 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 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, 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 "bigmules" Who did you mean by that? Who were you talking about?
JIM 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?
JIM 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 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?
JIM 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 . . .
JIM 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 on tape.) . . . 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 on tape) . . . yeah, I put it on the record every chance I get. The government is set up with three branches, legislative, 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 95% . . . 95% of the fraud was by the ability of a lawyer to sit in the legislature and also practice law in the courtroom. That's 95% 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 give away. 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 their ain't many idiots up there. Damn 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.