Ken Hare In Depth: Former Montgomery first lady a force in her own right

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - For two decadesit was as sure as spring follows winter; when the newspaper printed somethingthat could be construed as critical of then-mayor Emory Folmar, Montgomery'sfirst lady Anita Folmar would be on the telephone to set me straight.

It didn't matterthat much of the time the offending article was on the news pages. As Iexplained to her innumerable times, as editorial page editor I dealt withopinion and did not supervise the news department. But she knew me, and shecalled and vented anyway.

That's becauseshe was fiercely loyal to her husband, who was mayor for 22 years. I was eithermanaging editor or editorial page editor of the newspaper for almost all ofthose years.

If that was theonly reason she called, I wouldn't be writing this column. Women who arefiercely loyal to their political husbands are not exactly a rare commodity.

But she calledmany times when her husband was not the reason, and those calls almost alwaysfocused on making the community better for either children or the arts or both.(Interestingly, she seldom called about politics, even though she was deeplyinvolved in state and local politics as well.)

I knew AnitaFolmar in her informal role as the city's first lady, of course. But I latergot to know her better by working alongside her on civic boards and committees,especially United Way. She wasn't just a figurehead member of those committees;she worked at them.

She wasn'tafraid to speak her mind. I found her level-headed and to the point. While Ioften differed with her on political issues, I found myself more often than notagreeing with her viewpoint on the need to improve services for children and toexpand and support the arts.

Mayor Todd Strangewas on target when he said, "Her work with theUnited Way and love for the cultural aspects of our city, devoting herself tothe zoo, museum of fine arts, the ballet, the Armory Learning Arts Center andcountless other outlets, are among the many ways she served our citizens.Although she did not hold elected office, her dedication to Montgomery helpedmove our community forward."

It's not unusualfor political wives to adopt a cause or two, and many of them make adifference. But Anita Folmar went far beyond the usual; she was a real forcefor good in this community in many areas and over a long span of years.

She will bemissed.


Ken Hare was a longtimeAlabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial page editor who now writes aregular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at