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The Little Mans Big Friend: James E. Folsom in Alabama Politics, 1946-1958
by George E. Sims
University of Alabama Press, 1985
Cloth: 978-0-8173-0239-9 | Paper: 978-0-8173-1231-2
Library of Congress Classification F326.F755S56 1985
Dewey Decimal Classification 976.10630924

Examines the political career of Alabama’s “Big Jim” Folsom
At the end of World War II changing economic and social forces transformed the lives of Alabamians, whose political leaders had built careers on localistic politics shaped by established economic and governmental interests. Into this context strolled “Big Jim”—six feet eight inches tall—with his corn-shuck mop, wooden suds bucket, and a promise to scrub out the Capitol. Ridiculed by his opponents, Folsom advertised his progressive program in every crossroads community.
As governor, Folsom faced a legislature dominated by local politicians whom he had bypassed during the campaign, and although he won approval of some bills, legislative opposition made his administration a four-year filibuster.
Not until 1955, after his election to a second term, did Folsom become an effective leader. Tying programs for expanded services to the local interests of the legislators, he won approval for road construction, “old-age pensions,” industrial development, and reorganization of the state docks. But the lawmakers balked at constitutional reform.
As his reform efforts met defeat during 1956, Folsom was losing his ability to lead. He refused to exploit racial tensions, and the rise of the civil rights movement undermined his popularity among whites. Unwilling to discipline his aides and supporters, his administration became notorious for petty graft. By 1958 aspiring candidates kept their distance from Folsom. “Big Jim” attempted a comeback in the 1962 campaign, but he was never again to hold public office.

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