Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Historical marker in Elba tells of 'Big Jim' Folsom's rural birthplace

'Folsom Birthplace' historical marker in Elba.
This week’s featured historical marker is the “FOLSOM BIRTHPLACE” marker in Coffee County, Ala. This marker is located on Putman Street, just off the courthouse square in downtown Elba.

This marker was erected by the John Coffee Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The marker doesn’t indicated when it was put in place, but it appears to have been sometime after 2002. There’s text on both sides of the marker, but both sides are the same. What follows in the complete text from the marker:

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“FOLSOM BIRTHPLACE: James Elisha (Big Jim) Folsom, a resident of Elba, Coffee County, served as the 45th and 47th Governor of Alabama. Folsom lived in this home from 1908 to 1910 when it was located near the Folsom Mill Creek and Tabernacle communities. The Folsom family continued to own the house until local officials received it and relocated it to this site in 2002. The house, a good example of a late 19th century farmhouse, is listed in the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.”

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Folsom was born on Oct. 9, 1908 near Elba in Coffee County. He attended Alabama, Samford and George Washington University, where his studies focused on history and government courses, but he never earned a college degree. He also held a wide variety of jobs, including boxing sparing partner, insurance salesman, merchant sailor and theater doorman.

Folsom was elected to his first term as Alabama governor in 1946. He began his first term in office on Jan. 20, 1947 and that term ended on Jan. 22, 1951 when he was succeeded by Gordon Persons. Folsom’s second term in office began on Jan. 17, 1955, when he replaced Persons, and Folsom’s second term ended on Jan. 19, 1959, when he was succeeded by John Malcolm Patterson.

Readers in Southwest Alabama will likely know that the bridge over the Tombigbee River at Coffeeville is called the Jim Folsom Bridge. This steel through-arch style bridge on U.S. Highway 84 was completed in 1958. This bridge is 1,290 feet long and connects Clarke County and Choctaw County, Ala.

Folsom passed away at the age of 79 on Nov. 21, 1987 in Cullman. He was buried in the Cullman City Cemetery.

Folsom’s son, Jim Folsom Jr., was born in Montgomery on May 14, 1949 and went on to serve two terms as Alabama’s lieutenant governor. He became Alabama’s 50th governor when Guy Hunt was convicted of state ethics law violations. Folsom Jr.’s term as governor began on April 22, 1993 and it ended on Jan. 16, 1995. He was succeeded by Fob James, who narrowly beat him during the 1994 governor’s race. Hunt was pardoned in 1998, and he passed away on Jan. 30, 2009 from lung cancer.

In the end, visit this site next Wednesday to learn about another historical marker. I’m also taking suggestions from the reading audience, so if you know of an interesting historical marker that you’d like me to feature, let me know in the comments section below.

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