Appears we’ve got lots of political ‘dema-goshers’ lately.
But I’ve yet to hear of any recent political demagogue who matches the theatrical skill attributed to James Folsom, the Governor of Alabama back in the 1950s.
A son-of-Alabama, former State Senator Ramsey Neil Metcalf, told me about one “Kissing Jim” (nickname acquired after some lady filed suit in an Alabama court) Folsom appearance that I still remember.
On that Saturday, a crowd gathered at a county courthouse to hear the Governor whose promised arrival had been well advertised.
Governor Jim drove up in a white Cadillac sedan. Parked. Mounted the stairs in front of the courthouse crowd, shook a lot of hands, and delivered his speech.
According to Ramsey Neil (who was a veteran U.S. Army Captain, psychological campaign officer for General MacArthur in two wars, and a lawyer before he was a state Senator) the Governor said something like this:
“You folks may have been reading those big-city ‘Bama newspapers that say ‘Big Jim’ stole money. Don’t you believe it. If I ‘stole’ anything, I stole money from the big corporations by passing a tax that stole from those rich corporations to make them help run the state government. If I ‘stole,’ I stole for you.
“You also may have read that I ‘splurged’ and bought a Cadillac with state money. Well, I did. And there’s the Governor’s Cadillac parked in front of you.
“What the big city newspapers didn’t tell you, the Governor of Texas drives a Cadillac. So does the Governor of Oklahoma. And I know you didn’t want your Governor to go ‘second class.’
“That’s your Cadillac. Belongs to you citizens of Alabama.”
The Governor took the car keys out of his pocket. Tossed the keys to a nearby citizen.
“Here. Take the keys. ‘Git’ in there. Honk the horn. Drive YOUR Caddie around the block.”
And Ramsey Neil told me, he did. Then Governor Jim–after he stopped outside of town and moved over to let his chauffer drive–rode back to Montgomery.