Former Dallas Mayor Robert Folsom Passes Away at 89
Robert S. “Bob” Folsom (Beta Lambda–Southern Methodist ’44) passed away at the age of 89 on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, at his home in Dallas, Texas.
Bob was a successful businessman, turning $4,000 into a multi-million-dollar real-estate business and was Mayor of Dallas from 1976 to 1981. He saw the Reunion Arena to its completion, helped bring the NBA and NHL to Dallas, and oversaw construction of the Dallas Museum of Art.
Current Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that he Folsom was funny, charismatic and straightforward. “He was a born leader who saw the potential that we had to become one of the great American cities for future generations,” Rawlings said. “He knew how to make land deals and used that talent for the wellbeing of the city. Among his many other accomplishments, Mayor Folsom had the foresight to know that drawing NBA and NHL teams would go a long way in putting Dallas on the map and making us a more vibrant city.”
Below is his obituary from The Dallas Morning News.
Bob was born in Dallas on February 15, 1927 to John “Jack” V. and Zula Skillern Folsom. He grew up in Oak Cliff and attended the Dallas Public Schools and graduated from Sunset High School where he met the love of his life, Margaret Dalton. A gifted athlete, Bob led Sunset High School’s basketball team to a class AA State Championship and made the All-State Basketball team in 1944.
He attended Southern Methodist University to play football, basketball and baseball but after one year was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he played both football and basketball. At West Point he played with two Heisman Trophy winners, Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. He returned to SMU to finish his business degree and played end to quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Doak Walker, making Bob the only player to play with three Heisman Trophy winners. While at SMU, he lettered in four sports – football, basketball, baseball and track – the only athlete to have done so. He was also a member of Kappa Alpha Fraternity.
Following graduation from SMU in 1949, Bob married his childhood sweetheart, Margaret and they had four children. Their remarkable marriage lasted 64 years until Margaret’s death in 2013.
An extraordinary businessman, Bob Folsom began his career working with his father selling housewares as a traveling salesman. He was a visionary who could see what “could be,” and after a few years left the family business to build what would become Folsom Properties, a very successful real estate development company. He developed both the Bent Tree Country Club and Glen Eagles Country Club and the residential areas surrounding them. Over the years he also developed property in California but his primary business interests remained in his home state of Texas.
Bob Folsom loved Dallas and was grateful for his enormous business success. He lived, “to whom much has been given, much is required” and entered public life to give back to his community by serving on the Dallas School Board in 1960 at age 33. He was later elected president of the board. In 1976, he was drafted by the Dallas business community to run for mayor. He was elected and served in this capacity until 1981. Under his leadership, the city began a transformation with the development of Reunion Arena which brought both the NHL and NBA to Dallas and the beginning of the Dallas Arts District.
A generous philanthropist, Bob’s contributions of time and resources extended to many educational and charitable organizations. He served on SMU’s Board of Trustees from 1968 to 1987 and also on the board of the University’s Cox School of Business. He was Chairman of the Board of Methodist Hospital’s Foundation for nearly twenty years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In recognition of his service, the hospital created the Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award in his honor. He also served in many capacities on the Board of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church and received numerous awards for other endeavors.
Bob and Margaret Folsom shared a love of horses and for over twenty years bred and raced thoroughbred race horses. They also shared a love of art and travel. An accomplished golfer, Bob spent hours of enjoyment playing gin rummy with friends. Bob Folsom felt there was no greater achievement in his life than his family.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his brother, John, his beloved wife, Margaret, and his son, John V. Folsom, III and his granddaughter, Emily Folsom. He is survived by his two daughters Diane Folsom Frank and her husband, Robert, Debbie Folsom Jarma and her husband, Don, and his son R. Steve Folsom and his wife, Sharon; eight grandchildren, Clayton Miller and wife, Sarah, Margaret Miller, Holly Jarma Olmstead and husband, Bradley, Casey Jarma Prater and husband, Collin, Julie Jarma and Hunter, Chase and Annabelle Folsom. He is also survived by his two step grandchildren, Stacey Frank Conover and her husband, Scott and Scott Frank and his wife, Denise. In addition, he was blessed with six great grandchildren, Ryan Miller, Coby and Zoe Miller, Wesley and Madelyn Olmstead, and Carter Prater, and two step great grandchildren, Caden and Kellan Conover.
The family wishes to express their gratitude and appreciation to Peter Cyr, Emmanuel Nziramasanga, Jedida Waitharia, Lisa Davis, and James Overbay, the special caregivers who took such loving care of Bob during these last years. In addition, thanks to Silverado Hospice. The family will receive friends on Sunday, January 29 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Sparkman Hillcrest, 7405 West Northwest Highway. A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, January 30, at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, 9200 Inwood Road. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the Center for Brain Health, 2200 West Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, 75235; Methodist Health Systems Foundation, 1441 North Beckley Avenue, Dallas, 73203; Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, 9200 Inwood Road, 75220 or the charity of your choice.