FOB (FORREST HOOD) JAMES JR. was born in Lanett, Alabama on September 15, 1934. He attended public school in Lanett and Baylor Military Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He earned a B.S. degree in civil engineering at Auburn Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) where he was selected as an All-American halfback on the Auburn football team. In 1956 James played professional football with the Montreal Alouettes before entering the U.S. Army to serve two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Corps of Engineers. In 1958 he returned to Alabama, where he worked as a construction superintendent until 1962, when he founded an athletic equipment company. In 1978, following a switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party, James entered the gubernatorial race and defeated the Republican candidate, Guy Hunt, in the November general election. During James’ first administration, the state faced considerable financial difficulties; however, James was reasonably successful in attaining his education reform package, improving the state’s mental health system, rectifying some prison overcrowding problems and reestablishing the once financially strapped Medicaid system. Governor James consolidated various state agencies to reduce state spending and he worked to acquire stiffer penalties for convicted drug traffickers. However, he was unsuccessful in his attempts to have a new state constitution drafted, levy a fuel tax, implement the court-ordered desegregation of some of the state’s postsecondary institutions, and secure passage of his bill to eliminate income tax deductions for Social Security payments. During the state’s economic crisis, James implemented a 10 percent state spending cut, instituted a hiring freeze and laid off a considerable number of the state employee workforce. James also was quite instrumental in the improvement of the state’s highways as a result of earmarking a substantial amount of money for such improvements from the state’s oil windfall funds. Governor James lost a reelection bid to George Wallace in 1982, but retook the office in November 1994.
Governors of the American States, Territories and Commonwealths, National Governors' Association, 1997.