The Little Man's Big Friend: James E. Folsom in Alabama Politics, 1946-1958

The Little Man's Big Friend: James E. Folsom in Alabama Politics, 1946-1958

The Little Man's Big Friend: James E. Folsom in Alabama Politics, 1946-1958

The Little Man's Big Friend: James E. Folsom in Alabama Politics, 1946-1958

Excerpt

Alabama in 1946 bore a remarkable resemblance to the nineteenth-century America that Robert Wiebe described in The Search for Order . Like Americans before 1877, Alabamians still oriented their lives toward the "island" communities in which they lived. They lived with the confidence that the lifestyle they controlled in their autonomous hometowns was superior to any other way of life. They believed that the true test of an economic concept, social practice, or ethical principle was its ability to produce visible, beneficial results in their community. Their religion, a commonsense version of Protestant Christianity, taught the lessons of honesty, sobriety, forgiveness, and charity necessary for harmonious community relations. Their schools concentrated on training students to become productive, loyal community citizens. Their political ideas subordinated ideology to the practical tasks of defending community stability and distributing the benefits of government among themselves.

The localism of Alabamians throughout the first half of the twentieth century established the boundaries within which the state made political decisions. In the state government, local leaders representing individual counties made up the Alabama Legislature. Responsible for making law for the entire state, legislators commonly behaved as if they were ambassadors from the sixty-seven counties to the state government. A good legislator proved his worth by defending the interests of his home county from new legislation and by securing state revenue for public works in his hometown. The pervasive localism also narrowed the perspective of . . .

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