Big Jim Folsom: The Two Faces of Populism examines the history and politics of the post World War II South as seen through the story of Alabama governor James E. "Big Jim" Folsom. Nicknamed ‘Kissin’ Jim’ by the Northern press due to his fondness for women and alcohol, Folsom in 1946 overturned the planter/big business oligarchy that had ruled the state since Reconstruction. Folsom was a liberal progressive who sought to unify the interests of poor whites and blacks. He met strong opposition from the state’s major newspapers and its conservative legislature, but his outsized personality guaranteed his popularity with voters. Seeking a third term in 1962, Folsom’s main opponent was his former protégé George Wallace, now the state’s leading segregationist. Folsom’s disastrous election eve broadcast on statewide television, when he claimed he’d been given a “mickey,” would be his last hurrah.

Winner: International Documentary Association/ABCNews VideoSource Award, 1997. Atlanta Film Festival, Southeastern Filmmaker Award, 1997. Gold Plaque, Chicago Intercom Festival, 1997

'”Big Jim Folsom is a moving film that captures the triumph and the tragedy of one of the South's most colorful and courageous politicians. Filmmaker Bob Clem has poignantly reminded us of the South's tragic failure to listen to his prophetic voice as he fought for the rights and the dignity of all working men and women -- black and white.” Dan Carter, Historian and author of George Wallace: The Politics of Rage.


“This film is about lost opportunity, how the state's rural and blue-collar workers found their champion not in the progressive, racially moderate Folsom, but in the clamorous demagoguing of the fist-shaking populist waiting in the wings, the segregationist Georce C. Wallace.' Kendal Weaver, Associated Press

“The belief that history is really the study of biography gains support with this video portrait of Jim Folsom. A perceptive look at a stormy career.' Video Librarian (1997)

'Writer/director Clem has put together an excellent and revealing film about a woefully overlooked figure that will not only enlighten but also will have many asking, What if?' John D. Thomas, Atlanta Weekly

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Major Funders

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Southern Humanities Media Fund, Blount Foundation and Alabama Power Foundation.