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James Elisha Folsom, Sr.

Gov. James Elisha Folsom, Sr.

  • January 19, 1947 - January 14, 1951
    January 16, 1955 - January 18, 1959
  • Democratic
  • October 8, 1908
  • November 20, 1987
  • Alabama
  • University of Alabama, Howard College, George Washington University
  • Married twice--Sarah Albert Carnley, Jamelle Moore; seven children
  • Marines


JAMES ELISHA FOLSOM SR., also known as “Big Jim,” was born in Coffee County, Alabama, on October 9, 1908. He attended the University of Alabama, Howard College, and George Washington University, however he never obtained a college degree.  Folsom entered politics in 1933, when he ran unsuccessfully as a wet delegate to the state convention on the Federal Prohibition Amendment and was defeated when he ran for Congress in 1936 and 1938. He also was unsuccessful in his first bid for governor in 1942. He worked for the Emergency and Aid Insurance Company from 1937 to 1946, and served briefly in World War II, returning to care for his terminally ill wife. On November 5, 1946, Folsom was elected as Alabama’s 45th governor, and on January 20, 1947, was sworn into office. He was reelected to a second term on November 2, 1954. During his terms, funding was increased to aid education, highway construction, and old age pensions. Segregation was declared unconstitutional in hotels and on intrastate buses by the Federal courts and hundreds of miles of farm-to-market roads were constructed throughout the state. Folsom left the governor’s office for the last time on January 19, 1959, and returned to his insurance business in Cullman. He ran unsuccessfully in his third bid for governor in 1962 and a number of times thereafter. He died on November 21, 1987, and is buried at the Cullman Cemetery, Cullman, Alabama. Governor Folsom was the father of Alabama Governor James Elisha Folsom Jr. (1993-1995) and uncle to Alabama Governor George C. Wallace’s second wife, Cornelia.


Alabama Academy of Honor

Alabama Department of Archives and History

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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