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 Tuesday, August 22, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Folsom Family Legacy Brings History to Life
By Allison Sylvest

Members of the CU-Boulder community are of course familiar with Folsom Field and Folsom Street in Boulder, but few know about the man behind the name. As Folsom Field readies for its 60th anniversary this fall, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at the contributions of Fred Folsom and his family by visiting the Folsom Collection, part of the Special Collections of Norlin Library.

Folsom came to the university as a football coach and a law student in 1895. He coached football for 16 years, practiced law in Denver and Boulder while continuing his commitment to the football team, and taught at the law school from 1905 until 1943. Folsom met his wife, Mary Elwell, as CU students and they had four children: two sons, Franklin and Fred, and two daughters, Sarah and Helen. Together the family left a lasting legacy that spans 100 years, three generations, and touches on many important events and periods in CU, local and national history.

The Folsom Collection has increased over the years through donations from Folsom family members and consists of many pieces of CU memorabilia as well as family photographs, books published by son Franklin and his wife, Mary, and an extensive store of family correspondence, which offers personal insight into their daily lives, interests and concerns.

"By reading the letters, I've grown to know the Folsoms and have a sense of who they were as individuals and as a family," said Faculty Director of Special Collections Deborah Hollis. "I've also learned things about historical events from a personal angle, which is fascinating."

All four of Folsom's children graduated from CU-Boulder, and the family had a strong respect for scholarship and responsibility to the greater community. In the collection, there are many examples of children's books authored by Franklin and Mary from the early 1940s on that represented forward-thinking views on minorities. Franklin took part in the 1986 Great Peace March as the oldest participant, and both he and Mary worked throughout their lives to address issues of inequality. Youngest son Fred was a member of the Justice Department's investigating committee on the Martin Luther King, Jr. wiretapping scandal during the Hoover administration, and on accusations of tax evasion against President Nixon.

"Both sons had similar views on justice and civil rights, but they came at if from very different angles," said Hollis. "Franklin's communist beliefs clashed with Fred's sense of government, but they remained connected throughout their lives."

In 1946, two years after the death of Fred Folsom senior, Gamble Field was renamed in his honor. Mary Elwell Folsom was named Homecoming Queen that year, due to a scandal involving ballot stuffing for the two student candidates.

There will be an open house and short lecture, "Folsom: A Colorado Family's Legacy" in Special Collections, room N345 of Norlin Library on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 11 a.m. before the homecoming game. Stop by to get acquainted with part of CU-Boulder's past as we celebrate Folsom Field's 60th anniversary.


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