Just spell my name right

Published 9:22pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

There is an old political adage that espouses that theory. It is, “just spell my name right.” Let me share with you the origin of that saying.  Alabama has never had a more colorful character than legendary two-term Governor Big Jim Folsom.

During his era there was no television. Folks only listened to the radio to hear country music and probably only on Saturday night to listen to the Grand Ole Opry live from Nashville.

There were no constant news networks, only the newspapers. There were the big city dailies, like the Birmingham News, Montgomery Advertiser and Mobile Press Register. Big Jim only catered to the rural people and rural newspapers. He ignored, made fun of and ran against the lying big city daily newspapers. One day the daily newspapers were getting ready to write a seething story about Big Jim’s administration, which they would do every few months. Out of courtesy they called Big Jim to tell him they were going to write an expose about him and give him an opportunity to tell his side. Big Jim said, “Boys y’all come on down and see Big Jim and tell me what you got on me and by the way have a drink with old Big Jim.” Big Jim did not disappoint. To their chagrin, Big Jim met them reared back in the governor’s chair with his barefoot size 17 feet perched on the desk and a glass of bourbon in his hand. He greeted the big city newspapers with total disdain and ridicule and bellowed out, “Where you boys been so long. I’ve been missing you. Have a drink with old Big Jim and tell me what you got on me.” They replied, “Governor, this is not a laughing matter. We have it on reliable sources and we have a list here of 37 people you’ve hired over in the Highway Department and circumvented the merit system and put them on the state payroll. Big Jim took a long pause then poured himself another drink and blurted out, “You lying daily newspapers, y’all lying about poor old Big Jim again. I ain’t hired 37 people over there. I got a list right here on my desk and it says I’ve hired 70 and the only merit they’ve got is that they’re Big Jim’s friends.”

In total dismay and bewilderment the big city newspapers declared to Big Jim, “Governor, we are going to put what you said in the newspaper tomorrow.” Big Jim, who knew that his voters did not read the Birmingham News, said, “Boys, I don’t care what you write about me. Just spell my name right.” Big Jim coined that phrase that day.

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