Political columnist and Alabama Public Radio personality Steve Flowers speaks Sunday at the Cullman County Museum. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
CULLMAN – On Sunday afternoon, political columnist and Alabama Public Radio personality Steve Flowers visited the Cullman County Museum to talk Alabama politics and promote his NewSouth Books publication “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories.”
Flowers’ presentation touched on several topics, but he devoted much of his time to the administrations of Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace, with special attention to Cullman County native Folsom. Topics ranged from Folsom’s height to his drinking habits, progressive politics and disdain for the media. Flowers called him “probably Alabama’s most colorful and entertaining governor, by far” and talked in detail about numerous incidents like the infamous televised 1962 debate during which Folsom was, in the opinions of many observers, drunk.
Flowers described Folsom as “the most uninhibited person that I think God ever made. He loved people, though. You could tell he loved everybody. He loved the country folks, and he campaigned to help farm-to-market roads. But he would just say what’s on his mind; you know, he’d just say whatever came to his mind. I compared him in a column in the last couple of months to old Trump. I said, ‘Old Trump reminds me of old Big Jim Folsom. He just says whatever’s on his mind. You know, it doesn’t make any difference what it is.’”
Flowers said of current Gov. Kay Ivey, “Bless her heart. I like Kay, but she’s not quite as vibrant as she once was. But if she just stays home and doesn’t do anything, she’ll probably win, because the Republican candidate for governor is going to probably win, if they keep her off-stage. They can’t let people see her.”
He went on to talk about rumors concerning Ivey’s health and mental state, mentioning that he had recently made similar statements on talk radio, after which he received a phone call from the governor’s office.
“They said, ‘We understand you were on a talk radio show and said Kay was senile.’ I said, ‘That’s a blasphemous lie; I said she just looks senile!’”
Flowers advised that Ivey should avoid debates, saying that she has “everything to lose and nothing to gain.” His biting humor was not reserved for Ivey alone, but spread freely across the spectrum of Alabama’s recent gubernatorial history:
“My observation is: you ain’t really got to have a governor. Big Jim stayed drunk his whole second term. Wallace (after gunshot wounds left him paralyzed and in chronic pain) was on pain pills, didn’t know where he was. Fob James went duck hunting the whole time, didn’t care about being governor. They put poor (Guy) Hunt and (Don) Siegelman in jail. And (Robert) Bentley fell in love with his girlfriend, didn’t know where he was. Ms. Kay, she tries to do a good job.”
About the book
NewSouth Books’ website says about “Of Goats and Governors”:
“Few states have as colorful a political history as Alabama, especially in the post-World War II era. During the past six decades, the state played a central role in the civil rights movement, largely moved away from its earlier farm-based economy and culture, and transitioned from a relatively moderate-progressive Democratic Party politics to today's hard-core conservative Republican Party domination.
“Moving onto and off Alabama's electoral stage during all these transformations have been some of the most interesting figures in 20th-century American government and politics. Swirling around these elected officials in the Heart of Dixie are stories, legends, and jokes that are told and retold by political insiders, journalists, and scholars who follow the goings-on in Washington and Montgomery. In Alabama, it seems, politics is not only a blood sport but high entertainment. There could be no better guide to this colorful history than political columnist and commentator Steve Flowers.”
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