- Cullman, Alabama

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November 30, 2012

Former first lady Jamelle Folsom remembered (Updated with 2004 Times interview)


CULLMAN — In the governor’s mansion

Along with Jim Folsom’s two daughters from his first marriage to Sarah Carnley, they raised seven other children.

“With our seven children — we have three sons and four daughters —and then two by his first wife, he said it was like a poker game, to have seven and raise two,” Folsom said. “That was the way he always joked about it.”

All three of the boys were born in the governor’s mansion. A week after the birth of Joshua Folsom in the new mansion Jim Folsom had the state buy before the end of the first term as governor, he called his wife to say that photographers from National Geographic were coming to take their picture. The first lady and new mother had less than an hour to dress in a gown and meet the governor at the bottom of the grand staircase.

“And I was so mad at him when I first started down those steps,” she said. “But when I saw how handsome he was and he reached out his hand for me and he said, ‘I love you,’ I forgot about being mad.”

As first lady, Folsom said she attended a lot of teas and receptions.

“Jim, he liked entertaining,” she said. “We’d entertain the supreme court members. He’d want everybody to put on tuxedoes and the ladies to put on long dresses and just really have a formal dinner for them.”

One time, they hosted the national tennis champion and his new wife at the governor’s mansion. Folsom put on an impromptu tennis match between the champion and Grover Hall, editor of The Montgomery Advertiser. “He called up the Advertiser editor and said, ‘I want you to come over here and come have a game with the champion.’ And he said, ‘Governor, you must be joking.’ And so Grover  came over on a Sunday morning and played tennis with the champion. Jim had got on the phone the day before and called all the cabinet members and their wives and children, everybody and put bleachers out in the back yard.”

Folsom said she felt humbled to have served the state as first lady. “I come from a real small town, just 750 people, and I felt so proud that he was elected by the whole state of Alabama.”

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