Big Jim was more than a big man
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY-This column is what folks in my trade call a "filler." Ivan has put a damper (no pun intended) on political news in recent days, so I offer you instead one of my favorite stories from the political past. It was in 1955 and Big Jim Folsom had been inaugurated for a second term as governor only a few months before.
I was at the Capitol one day covering some story when one of Folsom's aides tracked me down to tell me that Big Jim wanted me to go with him to the funeral of former Gov. Gordon Persons. Folsom and Persons were bitter political enemies, but Big Jim felt he must go to the funeral.
When we arrived at historic St. John's Episcopal Church, the ushers quickly escorted the governor and me to a front pew, directly across from where the Persons family was seated. Governors always are given choice seats.
Understand I had never been to a funeral service in an Episcopal Church. I don't think Big Jim had either. We didn't know how they conducted such services. In case you don't know, let me tell you.
The preacher…I think they call him the rector…walks down the aisle, with the coffin bearing the body behind him. As this procession begins the rector begins to quote scripture in a loud voice. At this service…with such a huge crowd…the rector literally shouted the scripture.
Understand we were down on the front row…the sanctuary had been very quiet…and we had no idea what was about to happen behind us. Suddenly the silence in the sanctuary is broken by the shouting preacher.
It scared the daylights out of me and I swear Big Jim…who I think was dozing…must have jumped three feet in the air.
But as he was in mid-air he shouted, almost as loud as the Rector, "(Expletive) (Expletive)!" The crowd exploded in laughter and I bet Gov. Persons must have smiled as well. And I might add that ever since that day when I have attended funeral services at an Episcopal Church I have always occupied a pew in the back.
One other quick story about Big Jim, and it will underscore why I have always held him in such high regard.
In 1956 he was stumping the state drumming up support for some issue, I don't even remember what it was, and I was following him in my