Tommy Foltz is a man with a long and varied career that's taken him around the country, living a life that includes dazzling successes and gut-wrenching tragedies.
When Tom's early attempts at a career as a place kicker didn't work out, he transitioned from football to politics, his journey taking him from an intern for Governor Bill Clinton in 1985 to an appointment at the U.S. Department of Energy in 1993. From that point, he spent several years working to get cleaner fuel sources in vehicles, even founding Arkansas' first independent biodiesel refinery.
In 2012, Tom began regularly posting on Facebook what would eventually be called the Foltz Report, a writing endeavor that would become a valuable outlet following his son's death by suicide in 2014. Tom's new path included writing freelance articles and an unpublished book about recovering from the loss of his son.
Tom was hired as an Editorial Writer in 2023 by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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[0:00:09] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly biography show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people, and the ups and downs of risk-taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative, and always encouraging weekly blog. Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:34] KM: My guest today is an intelligent, long-time acquaintance and avid writer, Mr. Tommy Foltz. I first became aware of Tommy's intelligent perspective when he wrote for the Best of Arkansas Sports, an online publication based in Northwest Arkansas. At the time, my husband would read out loud to me Tommy's articles. I always agreed with his written comments. Later, I began to follow Tommy on Facebook and read his Razorback post-game posts. Sometimes my husband and I would use Tommy's perspective to settle an argument about how a game was won, or lost.
I am not the only person to notice Tommy's bright ideas and quick wit. As far back as college, he worked for some impressive people. President Bill Clinton and Senator Dale Bumpers. In his early career, he worked on a national scale, in a big business of natural gas. Most recently, Mr. Foltz has become an editorial writer for the Democrat-Gazette newspaper, a platform for him to write about just about anything. Like many 50-plus people, Tommy has a windy story full of ups and downs. Like all successful people, he has a never quit attitude.
I don't say this next thing lightly. With Tommy's permission, today, we're going to talk about his early successes, his political connections, his near-death experience from liver failure, and the unthinkable, the tragic loss of his son to suicide. If you don't already know, the number two cause of death among 10 to 24-year-olds is suicide. It is with great pleasure. I welcome to the table the deep thinker, thought-provoking writer and survivor, Mr. Tommy Foltz. Hey, Tommy.
[0:02:18] TF: Hey, thank you. Appreciate you setting me up to follow the Dalai Lama. There's nowhere to go but down from here.
[0:02:28] KM: I told you he was quick witted. That's pretty funny. You're the only person, I think, that has ever filled out the questionnaire so perfectly. I mean, you could tell you're a writer, you're like, “Uh, I don't really want to fill out this questionnaire. I'm going to send you a chronological date of everything that's happened to me since I graduated from high school.” I was like, “Thank you very much, Tommy.”
[0:02:50] GM: I don't know if that’s you want.
[0:02:51] TF: That's not everything that's happened to me, but some of the highlights for sure.
[0:02:56] KM: After reading your bio, I know that you love sports and I didn't know why you love sports and I didn't know why you knew so much about sports, because like I said in the intro, I've been reading your articles. But you're a place kicker. I guess, you kicked in high school, at central high school?
[0:03:13] TF: I did. I did.
[0:03:14] KM: Then you were going to go to college and be a place kicker?
[0:03:17] TF: Well, I had an opportunity to be what you would call now a preferred walk on at the University of Tennessee, and I decided that if I'm going to play for a state school that I'd go play for my own state school. I tried out my freshman year and didn't make it. I felt like I didn't make it at Arkansas.
[0:03:36] KM: Where? At University of Arkansas?
[0:03:37] TF: Yeah. The second semester, I tried out again and felt like I did make it. At that time, we were struggling with kickers up there and I was basically rejected, so I walked on back to the Fidel house and continued my career from there.
[0:03:52] KM: Your drinking career. That's about all those fraternities are good for sometimes.
[0:03:55] TF: Yeah. Well, my college career was a major in chasing girls. I played a lot of basketball, drank a lot of beer, played – chased a lot of girls.
[0:04:08] KM: I could tell, because when you graduated from college, you moved to Colorado and you – and with your good brain, you worked in bars and you worked on the ski slope.
[0:04:17] TF: Well, I did. I mean –
[0:04:18] KM: That's for fun.
[0:04:22] TF: To get where I am today, I've followed the normal path that any journalist would take, which is get a communication degree, not journalism, move to Aspen, ski and mountain bike for a year, move to D.C., work in the presidential campaign and administration, move home, build a biodiesel plant, become an oil and gas lobbyist and then apply for a job as an editorialist at the Democrat Gazette.
[0:04:48] KM: That’s exactly –
[0:04:49] GM: Very normal competitor. Yeah. Right.
[0:04:51] KM: That’s exactly what you should do.
[0:04:52] TF: It is textbook. It's a textbook route to get where I am right now.
[0:04:56] KM: When during college, you summer interned for Governor Clinton. I guess, it was Governor Clinton at the time. Then you were also one year in Washington with Senator Dale Bumpers. Talk about those years and what you learned.
[0:05:06] TF: Well, I was in Washington for that summer, in the summer of ’87. I'm already dating myself. It did something for me that really, for one, it made me understand that there's not all that much difference between me and the guy who goes to Harvard, or Yale, or Vanderbilt, or wherever. I gained some confidence just, I guess, maybe intellectually.
[0:05:35] KM: Didn't you get a gift when going to Washington, to learn that we all put our pants on one leg at a time?
[0:05:40] TF: Yeah. I lived in DC for 10 years after when I got out of college. You do start to understand that these are people and not everybody does everything for blatant political reasons.
[0:05:57] KM: Are you sure?
[0:05:59] TF: Well, I think we call that into question in some cases. But I think that some people really are doing what they do, because they think it's right. I mean, Asa Hutchinson said something like that, I think over the weekend that, or I guess John Brummett wrote about it, that sometimes you just do and say what you think is right, and with no political agenda, or ulterior motive. There's a lot of that goes in goes on in Washington, DC, that people just don't understand that. I think the main thing for whatever reason is that right now, people just want to be mad.
[0:06:43] KM: When they want to get on the cover of the newspaper and on the headlines, and the only way you can do that is if you say something outrageous, or you –
[0:06:51] TF: They want to raise money, so they can get reelected. They're not so concerned about how it would impact their party. I'm thinking of a few people in general. I will say, if we get into any political discussion, I just want to make sure that you know that these are my opinions and not necessarily those of the Democrat-Gazette. I mean, I do need to say that, because I'm – The way it works at the Democrat-Gazette, or really at any newsroom, I'm in the editorial section and then there's the journalism section. There's a wall between us, basically. We don't tell them what to report on and they don't tell us how to think about what they reported on.
[0:07:33] KM: Nice.
[0:07:35] TF: There are some things that I would say, politically, if I had my own column, that I can't say, because basically, I'm a big music person and it's like, we're the studio musicians. We're Rex Nelsons of the world and John Brummett and those guys are – they're the lead guitarist and lead vocalist. We're the guys who don't get our name on the album cover, but we provide a lot of the music underneath.
[0:08:05] KM: You're back up.
[0:08:06] TF: Yeah. Certainly, I have a lot of political opinions and –
[0:08:10] KM: They let you write about those, though, don't they?
[0:08:11] TF: Well, they do to some degree. Just before we go much further, I do want to – I've been there. I've been to the Democratic-Gazette about 90 days. This is new. I've had 60 editorials published, and they range anywhere from three or four paragraphs, to the entire column.
[0:08:32] KM: How long did you say you've been there? 90 days?
[0:08:34] TF: 90.
[0:08:34] KM: And you've written how many?
[0:08:36] TF: I had 60 published.
[0:08:39] KM: How many have you written?
[0:08:40] TF: I don't know. 85, 90.
[0:08:42] KM: Every day.
[0:08:43] TF: You'd be surprised when somebody's paying you to write how much content you can provide. This is a smattering of what I’ve – I’ve written about artificial intelligence, Argenta, standard lithium, renewable energy, oil and gas, laboratory produced food from Woolly Mammoth's, goat herding in California, election denialism, book banning, mortgage rates, the Little Rock port river dredging, eagles being killed by windmills, deaths from self-driving cars, federal land leasing, voter ID, and even the death of Gordon Lightfoot.
They've given me a lot of freedom. I'm not assigned anything. The philosophy is that if you think it's interesting and most likely, other people will think it's interesting. I question that philosophy some.
[0:09:37] KM: When did you start playing the guitar?
[0:09:40] TF: Five, six, five, six years ago.
[0:09:42] KM: Oh, recently.
[0:09:43] TF: Yeah. I'm self-taught. If I had a guitar, I could probably convince you of that. After my son died, there was a lot – obviously, there was a lot of introspection. I wanted to do something, something positive from a prevention standpoint. I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what I could do. A friend of mine had started a blog. I called her up and I said, “How did you do that?” We talked a little bit and I started a blog called Foltz Forward. Very positive, very get up, dust yourself off and don't ever be the victim kind of a mentality, which we can come back to later, because I did allow myself to become the victim eventually.
I wrote that for about a year and that was – I got such positive feedback on it, that that's one of the things that gave me the confidence, plus the Facebook postings that people give me so much positive feedback on it. That's one of the things that gave me the confidence to apply at the Democrat-Gazette. After about a year writing that blog, I felt like I had said everything I could say, or everything that I knew to say. I mean, I'm not a mental health expert at all and all I can do is relate my personal experience, and I just unapologetically put it away.
It's out there for people. People still go to the Facebook page. Usually, I can see where more people visit that Facebook page when there's some tragedy, like within my community. The reason I did a blog is because I didn't want to write all this stuff like I do, the Razorback stuff on Facebook. I mean, I don't want to subject everybody who, if they don't want to read about it –
[0:11:45] KM: You didn't want it to be in their newsfeed. You want them to go to it if they wanted to go to it.
[0:11:49] KM: Right. I mean, if they're interested. There were enough people interested that I did start a Facebook page with that, with the blog. People could go and they could read some of the stuff on Facebook without having to go into the blog and all that. When I stopped writing the blog, I picked up the guitar. I wanted to learn how to play guitar. It's just been a lifelong – not obsession, or I would have done it a lot earlier. Through all the ups and downs, I don't really have any regrets in life. But the one regret I have is that I didn't start playing guitar earlier.
[0:12:25] KM: Really?
[0:12:26] TF: Yeah. It's something where now, and I am getting better enough that my neighbors unsolicited have, “I can't believe you never had lessons.” I was like, “This is the greatest day of my life.”
[0:12:44] KM: Are there musicians in your family?
[0:12:45] TF: No. My dad played guitar.
[0:12:47] KM: He did. So, there you go.
[0:12:49] TF: But not – he wasn't Jimmy Page, you know what I mean?
[0:12:53] KM: Yeah. You've got it in your DNA.
[0:12:55] TF: Well, I guess. A little bit.
[0:12:57] KM: All right. Let's take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Mr. Tommy Foltz, Jack of all trades, as you've heard. Currently, he's an editorial writer for the Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, Arkansas. We'll be right back.
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[0:13:49] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago, with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed, along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge. In 2020 Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. More recently, opened a satellite office in Miami Florida. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com.
Back to you, Kerry.
[0:14:28] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I am telling an American-made story today. I'm speaking today with a writer, a businessman, a politician, a dad, and a survivor, Mr. Tommy Foltz. All right, you have – just a recap, if you're just tuning in right now. You have, you’re a place kicker in high school. Thought you were going to be one in college. You've dabbled in politics a little bit. You've been appointed, I think, to – didn't you get an appointment to Bill Clinton when he became the president, because you worked on his campaign?
[0:15:02] TF: I did.
[0:15:03] KM: He appointed you. I think that's how you started into your –
[0:15:06] TF: Energy.
[0:15:07] KM: Into your energy business. You got an appointment –
[0:15:12] TF: To the U.S. Department of Energy.
[0:15:13] KM: There you go. U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. You had moved home to Little Rock to work on his campaign. Now, you've been appointed and you're moving back to Washington, a place you really know well, because you spent your summers there.
[0:15:25] TF: Yeah. Well, when I left Aspen in ’91, I moved – I mean, I was in Little Rock for about 12 days and went straight over to D.C., and was there for about 10 months. Clinton announced, and I ended up throwing everything in my mom and stepdad's house and went on the road, doing advanced work. That's why I can say that I've visited 47 of the lower 48 states.
After the campaign, it was, again, I mean, a week, or so home, and then straight over to D.C. I moved over to D.C. in Thanksgiving week of ’92. Worked on the presidential inaugural committee. When that was over with, everybody was scrambling to try to get jobs in the administration. I thought, I know I'm going to move home to Arkansas at some point. Arkansas, it's an energy state. I didn't really know what I was talking about at that time. We're not as big of an energy state as I thought we were. Although, we're turning the corner on that right now. I thought, energy department would be a good place for me to be.
I spent four years there as a presidential appointee. What I did was specifically, was I was trying to help develop the market for natural gas vehicles. After four years, I left the department and started my own consulting firm called Clean Fuel Strategies.
[0:16:58] KM: Who did you consult?
[0:17:00] TF: People in the natural gas vehicle market.
[0:17:01] KM: What would be something they'd come to you and say, “I need to know”?
[0:17:04] TF: I was not a registered lobbyist, but which meant I couldn't go ask a congressman from Colorado for their vote. But I could introduce my clients from Colorado to –
[0:17:17] KM: People from the U.S. Department of Energy.
[0:17:19] TF: Yeah, or Congress. I was also a grant writer. We would try to develop a project and we go out and get the grant funding for the fleet that we wanted to provide the fuel for. When I was at Petra Hawk and BHP Billiton as an employee, I wasn't consulting for them. But one thing we were able to do is we were able to get Petra Hawk to endorse disclosing the chemicals that are used in hydraulic fracturing.
[0:17:48] KM: Oh, that's a big one.
[0:17:49] TF: We were taking a progressive forward thing stance, and we weren't the only ones. I mean, there were some other good producers that were doing the same thing.
[0:17:56] KM: For people that don't, fracking was making people's water burn. Remember that? What they said. You don’t believe that?
[0:18:04] TF: A lot of that was staged. I mean, I know for a fact that a lot of them were staged.
[0:18:06] KM: Really?
[0:18:07] TF: Yeah. I mean, that's not to say that fracking can't contaminate groundwater, because it can. Like the earthquakes over in Oklahoma, I mean, that was –
[0:18:18] KM: From fracking.
[0:18:19] TF: Yeah. It wasn't really from fracking. It was injecting the water back into the ground in the wrong place. It's geology that I don't understand. Let me go back there to tell you about what I'm most proud of.
[0:18:34] KM: I'm sorry, yes.
[0:18:35] TF: In the process of fracking, there is a lot of trucking that's used. We were very big down in South Texas, and those are Caliche, dirt gravel roads, they require a lot of maintenance. We as a company would just cut a check to the county right before we drilled a well. It was never enough. I was able to get the Texas legislature, with some help, but I've spearheaded the whole thing to get 225 million dollars from the state to the counties to repair those roads.
Again, it wasn't enough, but it's a whole lot better than zero dollars. It was the first time that I know of in the history of the state of Texas, where the state actually provided money to the counties, because there's a big separation between state and county and Texas. To get 225 million dollars was a pretty big deal.
[0:19:35] KM: Are we going to run out of oil and gas?
[0:19:36] TF: The stone age did not end because we ran out of stones. Let’s put it that way.
[0:19:42] KM: What does that mean?
[0:19:43] TF: What that means is that we will use oil and gas until it's no longer economically viable to use oil and gas. I mean, we stopped using rocks to kill buffaloes back in caveman days when we figured out the bow and arrow. Now we progressed all the way to a rifle. We're not using as much oil and gas, because we figured out a way to harness the sun and the wind. Now, the fact is that, though, with the increase in the use of electricity, we need it all. I mean, it's not like one or the other. We need all the – the more energy we have in the marketplace, the lower it costs. That's better for people on fixed incomes, the elderly.
[0:20:26] KM: The solar panels can go into the electrical grid.
[0:20:30] TF: Oh, yeah.
[0:20:31] KM: So that we don't have to.
[0:20:32] TF: Sure. Yeah. They can either power your house, or they can power the grid, or they can power industrial operations.
[0:20:37] KM: What kind of car do you drive? How do you fuel your car?
[0:20:41] TF: I drive a Ford F-150 pickup truck.
[0:20:43] KM: Well, of course you do.
[0:20:44] TF: Well, but I've driven all kinds of different cars. I mean, I like to go hunting.
[0:20:50] KM: Oh, yeah. It's hard to get up.
[0:20:51] TF: Yeah. You can't really take a Honda Accord into the duck woods.
[0:20:56] KM: No. It's hard to get up. It's hard to find a charging station.
[0:20:58] TF: Yeah. But like I say, I am all for renewable energy. I think it's great, but just everyone has to understand that it's not a 100% clean and that's the way it's being sold.
[0:21:13] KM: First thing, you talked about history repeating itself, do you feel like we're repeating ourselves in history right now?
[0:21:19] TF: Yeah. Again, these are my opinions and not necessarily those of the Democrat-Gazette. I just see a lot of the politics these days, smacks of McCarthyism. We settled a lot of the labor issues long, long time ago. Child labor. We settled that a long time ago. It's one of the things that differentiates us from the rest of the world. Now we're rolling that back. Why?
[0:21:47] KM: We are?
[0:21:49] KM: What are we doing?
[0:21:51] TF: I mean, there are a number of states out there that are making it easier for a 14-year-old to go work in a meatpacking factory, or –
[0:22:00] GM: Work a night shift.
[0:22:01] TF: Factory and night shifts. Deep and to reach all of them.
[0:22:03] KM: How old were you and you got your first job?
[0:22:05] TF: Probably 15, working on a golf course. That's a whole different deal than working in a factory. It's a summertime deal.
[0:22:14] KM: I worked in a restaurant when I was 15.
[0:22:16] TF: Yeah. I mean, there are just a lot of things that seem like, where people are trying to thwart the progress that's been made, that's generally accepted. That is generally accepted by the vast majority of Americans, but the people in charge, because of the way we draw our congressional districts.
[0:22:40] KM: Is that ever going to get right?
[0:22:43] TF: I don't know. It's been a problem for –
[0:22:45] KM: About 10 years.
[0:22:46] TF: About 250. It's not just in America either. I mean, the people in charge are going to draw the lines that are the most favorable to them. So much so that the real contest is in the primary. When the real contest is in the primary, you're going to get the most extreme – the most extreme people go and vote the primary, so they're going to elect the most extreme candidates.
[0:23:13] KM: Yes. Why do extreme people go to their polls?
[0:23:16] TF: Because they're more passionate. But the result of all that is, no, not only is it a bad policy, but it's also, you got 40% of America that refuses to claim a political party, either Democrat, or Republican.
[0:23:30] KM: I remember, I read in your bio, in 2004, you ran unsuccessfully as a state representative. You're endorsed by the Democrat-Gazette that you now work for. You wrote, “This is when I realized, I was really neither a Democrat, or Republican. Too conservative to win the Democratic primary. Too liberal to be a Republican.” I thought, boy, is that not all of America?
[0:23:53] TF: Well, pretty much. It is now.
[0:23:55] KM: This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Mr. Tommy Foltz, Jack of all trades, currently, he's a –
[0:24:01] TF: Master of none.
[0:24:03] KM: Oh, I left that part out. I don't know about that. You're pretty good at writing. Currently, he is an editorial writer for the Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, Arkansas. Still to come, surviving liver failure, and Tommy shares the heartbreak of his son's suicide and how he healed and learned to live with it.
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[0:24:54] KM: You're listening Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with a writer, a businessman, a politician, a dad, and a survivor, Mr. Tommy Foltz. It's a parents' worth's nightmare. I want to tell our listeners that you wrote me and said, “I want to talk about this. I want to share what I know.” You're paying forward what you've learned. You just, last week, I read your article where you wrote about it. It's a parents’ worst nightmare. His son dies of suicide in March of 2014. He starts a blog. Talk about posting on Facebook, how it happened. Give us some statistics. Are there warning signs?
[0:25:31] TF: There are definitely warning signs. We had them. I had two twin boys. I will say, and this is just a – just the way life is. One of my sons just graduated from the University of Arkansas. He took a job in Dallas. He is as well-adjusted as any kid I've ever seen. Love him to death. We've got a great relationship.
[0:25:59] KM: How old was he when his brother passed?
[0:26:01] TF: They were 13. I guess, what I haven't really talked about is that I actually wrote a book about this and I have not published. But in doing some of the research, statistically speaking, I was probably one of five dads in Arkansas that year that who lost a 10 to 14-year-old to suicide. That alone is makes you feel a little bit lonely. We don't really and never really will know exactly what was wrong.
[0:26:30] KM: No note?
[0:26:31] TF: Yeah, there was a note. Yeah. I won't say what the rest of the note said, but it was all very nice to everyone he addressed, but he addressed it to me saying, “Dad, I love you a lot.” That a lot for a 13-year-old to me was, wow, we're good with each other.
He had been in therapy. We tried medication. I mean, yes, of course it was a shock, but it was not – we knew it was a possibility. As a lot of suicide victims seem to be getting better, once they've made the choice that they have come to peace with what they're going to do, and it's just a matter of when they're going to do it. It just happened that the opportunity presented itself at my house. I was the first one to him. I mean, it was over before I got to him.
I had a great relationship with him. I mean, it was exceedingly difficult. I tried to stay as absolutely positive as I could. As I said on the Foltz Forward blog, I tried to make everything look, the traffic doesn't stop. How do you get up in the morning? You set the alarm clock. People will feel sorry for you, up to a point. If you're showing people that you are trying to get over it, and not over it, and I don't want to say past it, because I never want to be over it. I'm not now. I don't think I ever will be. You have to understand that it's not all about you all the time, and that the world's going to keep moving with, or without you. That was my mentality with the Foltz Forward blog.
[0:28:48] KM: Where were you working at the time?
[0:28:50] TF: BHP Billiton.
[0:28:52] KM: Were you married?
[0:28:53] TF: No, we were divorced. We've been divorced about a year at that point.
[0:28:58] KM: But he was staying at your house?
[0:29:00] TF: Well, I mean, we shared custody. I mean, she was the primary caregiver, but I mean, I had my kids every weekend. I mean, BHP expected me to be in the office Monday morning at 8, Friday afternoon at 5. I had an apartment down there, and I had a house here. Every single weekend, I came back, because I love my kids. I wanted to be part of their lives. This was right at the end of – it was on a Sunday afternoon, right at the end of a ski trip during spring break, and which we had had a great time. He had gotten in trouble before that. There was questions whether or not we were going to do the trip, because he was in trouble, so why take him skiing?
[0:29:49] KM: He's a 13-year-old. Aren't they all in trouble?
[0:29:50] TF: Yeah. There's two things to that. One is that you can't punish Davis for that. We didn't take the ski trip.
[0:29:59] KM: That’s your other son.
[0:30:00] TF: Yeah, my other son. He didn't do anything wrong, so he deserves a ski trip. The other is, how much worse will it make it if we didn't go on the trip? Like I said, we had a great time. We always had a great time together.
[0:30:20] KM: Does suicide run in your family, or mental health problems?
[0:30:23] TF: Not that I know of.
[0:30:24] KM: When you hear people talk about on TV about, because your son, I think, shot himself, right?
[0:30:30] TF: Yeah.
[0:30:31] KM: When you hear people talk on TV about mental health and gun control and passing inspections and stuff, to whether they can buy guns, do you think that has any relevance at all? Would that work at all? Or does it stigmatize mental health?
[0:30:47] TF: I think that anybody who goes in to a school, or sets up outside of school and just starts indiscriminately firing, I think we can all agree, has got mental challenges.
[0:30:58] KM: Yes.
[0:31:01] TF: I have guns. I'm a hunter. I'm not anti-gun at all. But I don't understand why we can't do simple things. I mean, for instance – It didn't work in my case. All my guns were locked up. The key to my gun locker was on my key chain, which is normally in Houston. They just happened to be out that day, on the coffee table. My son, he obviously had a plan.
[0:31:31] KM: Yeah. Sounds like it.
[0:31:33] TF: He saw those keys and he went and unlocked the locker and the rest is history. That's what I said in that piece that I wrote earlier this week is that it's not about anti-gunnist, but lock up your guns. But understand that a gun locker is like a locked closet. That you also might want to do gun locks. Even if you have a perfectly well-adjusted situation, with perfectly well-adjusted kids, lock up your guns. If he didn't have the gun available ability that we do have, I mean, how many people are going to run into a school and start stabbing people and how successful would they be?
[0:32:21] KM: One, I mean, you wouldn't die from it – you get it in the arms.
[0:32:24] GM: Exactly.
[0:32:25] TF: Well, I mean, it has happened, but not anywhere close to the level. I mean, there've been more school shootings, or mass shootings than there have been days in 2023.
[0:32:37] KM: Oh.
[0:32:37] TF: Yeah. It happens all the time. I mean, the red flag laws. That's a good start. Red flag laws came from suicide prevention.
[0:32:48] KM: Describe a red flag law.
[0:32:49] TF: Well, it's like, if you're posting something on social media that is racist, or I'm going to do this, whatever. When somebody tells you they're going to do something, you need to listen to them. If you're throwing that stuff out on social media, then somebody should be able to say, “Hey, Mr. Policeman. Look at this guy's social media posts.” Because how many times have we seen in the aftermath of one of these shootings that, well, yeah, there was – there's all these incendiary comments on social media. How long is it going to take for somebody to do something? There's some out there who are just like, “Well, this just happens.”
[0:33:31] KM: I grew up with guns, and my father was a hunter, my husband's a hunter. We grew up with guns, but we didn't have automatic weapons. I mean, I don't understand why we have to have these military weapons in homes. I really don’t. Hunters don't hunt with them. It tears your meat up.
[0:33:45] TF: Well, that's another compliment. I've shot an AR-15 before.
[0:33:50] KM: Well, I have, too, actually. That's why I know, we don't need them.
[0:33:56] TF: Well, yeah. It's like, talking about how much damage they do. Well, that's an ammunition issue. It's not the gun. I mean, that's obviously very related, but let's not say that the gun –
[0:34:09] KM: It fires really rapid though. It can shoot a lot of people, no matter what size the bullet is.
[0:34:15] TF: But it's not a machine gun.
[0:34:17] KM: Close enough. You're not going to hunt with it.
[0:34:21] TF: You can't. You hunt hogs with it. I mean, really –
[0:34:25] KM: Well, that's true.
[0:34:26] TF: See, and that's where Democrats got it so wrong is that they focus more on what the gun looks like, rather than what the capability is. Now, that doesn't excuse Republicans for anything. But Democrats need to learn more about the issue before they really go down that road.
[0:34:47] KM: Well, I think I saw you write, or somebody in your paper wrote about how we care so much about the kids, and they're all talking about the kids with all of these transgenders. “We're protecting the kids. We're protecting the kids.” Then you see where all of America writes back and says, “Well, if you want to protect our kids, get some gun laws.”
[0:35:07] TF: Yeah. I don't understand. Well, I do understand it. I mean, the NRA is a very powerful lobbying group. One thing that people need to understand, too, is that this is a uniquely American issue.
[0:35:18] KM: Yes, it is.
[0:35:21] TF: It doesn't happen everywhere around the world. It is here.
[0:35:26] KM: But we're still the best country. Everybody's trying to get in here.
[0:35:29] TF: I'm with you.
[0:35:30] KM: If you open up the gates, everybody in the world would flood to America.
[0:35:34] TF: Don't get me wrong. I mean, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
[0:35:36] KM: I wouldn't either.
[0:35:38] TF: I’ll just say that my son's suicide in many ways, not the only way, but I'm the one responsible for my liver issues, that landed me in a hospital for eight days in Florida. All of it compounded itself. That was where when I wrote the book that I haven't published and I'm not sure I ever will, it was at a time where I knew that I wasn’t doing that great. I was thinking, how can I be with a straight face, say, “Here's how I handled it. You might want to handle it the same way.” Because it didn't lead me down the right road. Luckily, by the grace of God, I survived that. I'm healthier right now than I've probably been in 20 years.
[0:36:27] KM: You look great.
[0:36:28] TF: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
[0:36:30] KM: You seem happier, too, than you've had.
[0:36:33] TF: Well, there' no question. I mean, I'm happier with the – I've had some very difficult soul-searching moments, where I've had to really pull myself out of the depths and with the help of people, like my sister, have really helped me get back on my feet. Then, to get this, to start working at the Democrat-Gazette and being able to do what I do on a daily basis, it's really hard for me not to be happy right now.
[0:37:05] KM: If a parent is suffering that’s listening and says, “Yes, my son committed suicide.” I can think of a lot of people whose children have committed suicide. Is there a piece of advice that worked for you, that stays with you that you think about?
[0:37:17] TF: Well, I can tell you the best first thing is I would suggest getting professional help. I had some counseling after in the aftermath of it, but it wasn't – I didn't do it for very long, because – I mean, the way I didn't think I needed it. I thought I was doing just fine. I was for a long time. One of my counselors asked me in the immediate aftermath of this. He said, “Would you have a problem writing a letter to your son? Also, you might want to just describe the day, and do it in detail. Not for anybody else to see, but just for yourself.” I brought that assignment back in and he made me read it out loud.
[0:38:07] KM: Tough. Ooh, I bet that was tough.
[0:38:08] TF: It was, yeah. The idea is that when you go through a tragedy, whether it's a suicide, or any tragedy, you've got the tragedy swirling around in your head and it's getting in the way of any focus and ability to do anything else. Whereas, if you write it down, it's like, you file it away. Where you can access that, it's like a computer file. You can go back to it and look at it again. At the end of that, you close it up, put it back in the computer, and spend the rest of your day living. That was a perfect assignment for me as a writer. He had no idea that I like to write now.
[0:38:52] KM: He didn’t?
[0:38:53] TF: No. I mean –
[0:38:53] GM: Oh, wow.
[0:38:57] TF: At that time, nobody really knew I was a writer at heart.
[0:39:01] KM: All right. This is the last break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Mr. Tommy Foltz, writer of the Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock Arkansas. Still to come, act three, maybe act four, depending on how you want to look at his life. Surviving liver failure. We’ll talk about his eight days in Florida and what do you think is his next act will be? Because I know he’s thinking, because he’s always thinking. We’ll be right back.
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[0:40:22] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business. Speaking today with a man of many talents. He is a writer, a businessman, a politician, a sports enthusiast, an entrepreneur, and a dad, and he's a survivor. Mr. Tommy Foltz. Boy, it's been fun to talk to you. All right, you went to the hospital. Eight days in the hospital, recovering from acute liver failure. Did you know it was coming? Were you down there partying in Florida, sitting on the beach and you had an attack? What happened?
[0:40:51] TF: Well, I didn't know that it was coming at the velocity that it did. There was a period of time there where I was –
[0:40:59] KM: Turning yellow?
[0:41:01] TF: Yeah. I truly did. I was jaundiced. My doctor here knew it. I mean, he saw me and he was like, “There's no doubt.” Whatever reason, he said, “When you get back from Florida,” I was like thinking, “Man, he should never have let me go to Florida.”
[0:41:22] KM: He's not your mother.
[0:41:23] TF: I did not take it anywhere nearly serious enough. We were down there. We went on a fishing trip. My son was with me and a few of his friends and I was – I was dating at the time. I really didn't feel good at all. I mean, just not myself. I mean, I couldn't even finish a beer.
[0:41:49] KM: Yeah, you were sick.
[0:41:50] TF: Yeah. Yeah. As soon as we got on the boat, of course, it's hot outside and they're down below. There's an air-conditioned cabin. I went straight down there and slept for the whole deal. I mean, I know some of the things that happened from the time we got off the boat, until the time that I went to the hospital. I remember hallucinations.
[0:42:11] KM: How did they know something was wrong with you?
[0:42:13] TF: Because I –
[0:42:13] KM: Couldn't get up.
[0:42:15] TF: I was making no sense.
[0:42:16] KM: Couldn't get up.
[0:42:17] TF: Yeah. My only request was – it wasn't a request. It was a demand. I said, “Just no ambulance. Just take me.” I mean, my girl that I was seeing at the time, who deserves some of the credit for me being alive, as does my son. I was just babbling on about nothing and saying some really stupid things. She said, “You know, Davis, why don’t you come in here and talk to your dad? I think he needs to go to the hospital.” He talked to me for a couple of minutes and said, “He needs to go to the hospital.” I got phenomenal care down there. As luck would have it, somebody who was trained at UAMS. The biggest thing was that it was like, you can never drink again. I'm like, “What?”
[0:43:10] KM: I don't want to live.
[0:43:11] TF: Yeah. I mean, it wasn't quite that bad. People pat me on the back all the time for it's been over three years now to not have a drink. They pat me on the back and I just say, and I appreciate it when they do. I have to remind them that my alternative is death. I love living too much.
[0:43:32] KM: There's a lot of people that don't choose life.
[0:43:35] GM: Well, I was about to say. Yeah.
[0:43:37] TF: Yeah, I know. I know.
[0:43:39] KM: Did you go to AA?
[0:43:39] TF: No, I never have.
[0:43:42] KM: Oh, you're missing out on something absolutely wonderful.
[0:43:45] GM: We're all part of the club here at Flag and Banner.
[0:43:48] KM: Yeah, there's a lot of us here at Flag and Banner.
[0:43:51] TF: I don't have a thing in the world against that, or Al-Anon, or any of those – I mean, I think they're all very positive. I just haven't felt I've had the need.
[0:44:00] KM: Arkansas has the ninth largest AA family in the world.
[0:44:05] TF: Really?
[0:44:06] GM: It’s interesting, and you know that.
[0:44:07] KM: Club 99 at Rotary is Club 99. It's the 99th largest Rotary in the world. AA has the ninth largest. If you want to make some good connections, go to AA. You will –
[0:44:19] GM: Yeah. Also, that.
[0:44:22] TF: Yeah, well.
[0:44:23] GM: Never mind support. Just good connections.
[0:44:24] KM: I’m telling you, it’s the social of being up there.
[0:44:26] TF: Well, I mean, I will say, yeah.
[0:44:29] KM: All the fun people are dry alcoholics. I mean, Tommy is a good example. My husband is a good example.
[0:44:35] GM: Sure.
[0:44:36] KM: My daughter is another good example. My other son's a good example. Half of the family. We get together, half the family drinks, half the family's teatope.
[0:44:43] TF: Yeah. Well, I mean one of my buddies, he's like, “Man, Foltz. You're the first person I've ever seen that didn't have to go through rehab to quit drinking.” I was like, I consider myself lucky and I'll knock on wood that I don't really have the desire.
[0:44:59] KM: You did detox though in a hospital.
[0:45:00] TF: Yes. Yes.
[0:45:01] KM: That is where is that – that very first week or so is the hardest and scariest and where an alcoholic could die.
[0:45:10] TF: Yeah. I was close. I mean, the woman that I was with was – they thought that she was my wife. They said, “You need to prepare yourself that there's about a 10% chance of him leaving here alive.”
[0:45:23] KM: That's small.
[0:45:24] TF: Mm-hmm.
[0:45:25] KM: Did you have to have a transplant, or anything?
[0:45:27] TF: No. I mean, they expect a full recovery, the whole thing. I got to say, too, that you know what? It feels good to feel good. I'd love to have a beer on the golf course, sunny afternoon, but it's just, I can't. That's okay. It ain't the end of the world.
[0:45:50] KM: You seem to be a speed writer and a reader. You write constantly. I have a feeling you have notepads everywhere in your house with stuff written on them all over the place.
[0:45:59] TF: It's all in here.
[0:46:01] KM: He's pointing to his head. This is the radio, Tom.
[0:46:04] TF: Oh, yeah. That's true.
[0:46:04] GM: It's YouTube, but it’s fine.
[0:46:06] TF: Well, for the benefit of the people in the room, I –
[0:46:07] GM: That's right.
TF: Well, I do. Yeah. I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but I am intellectually curious. I want to know what is driving what. I made a call yesterday about a company that they recycle oil down at smack over. The article I read on it, it was like, didn't say where they source the oil from. I'm like, I know the readers want to know, because I want to know. Where do they get the oil? Is that oil coming from –
KM: El Dorado?
TF: Yeah, is it coming from right around South Arkansas that's used, farming oil, or – Just little things like that. Those little things really inform an editorial, or an article of any kind. I mean, I feel like, I want to educate people through these things that are right. I want to at least make it readable enough that they want to –
KM: Finish it.
TF: - finish the article.
KM: What are you reading right now?
[0:46:12] TF: I’m reading Killers of the Flower Moon. That's got to be a three and a half hour Martin Scorsese film in October, but it's about the Osage Indians, who somehow were able to retain their mineral rights in Oklahoma. At one point, back in the twenties and thirties, they were the richest people per capita of anyone in the world. But then, they started getting murdered. I've usually got a couple of books open by the bed.
[0:46:44] KM: Oration of JFK. Is that all of his speeches?
[0:46:48] TF: Oh, no, no. A Hero for our Time. I just like the soaring rhetoric, the positive, the –
[0:46:57] KM: The way he writes speeches.
[0:46:58] TF: Well, yeah. The way and then the way he spoke. I mean, he was appealing to our better angels. I can't emphasize how important that is to the psyche of the country. I mean, the last thing you want is somebody out there trying to divide. We can't be divided. That's what's been happening. Listen, I don't like the MAGA right. I don't like the Woke left.
[0:47:28] KM: I'm with you.
[0:47:29] TF: I mean, I don't want books banned, but I don't want them scrubbed either. I mean, there is value, in my opinion. There is value to reading a book the way it was written, when it was written.
[0:47:42] KM: At the time.
[0:47:43] TF: At the time. Because for one, it tells you how far we've come and maybe how far we still have to go. One of the things that got me out of my real funk was the poem Invictus. It's either Invicta, or Invictus. It's by Paul Hemsley. It is the poem that Nelson Mandela recited to himself every single day for 23, or 27 years, whatever it was in prison.
It's like, when you're, you've got, you're in that bad spot and you're thinking, “Okay, I'm in the tunnel. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it's not an oncoming train,” but you still got a ways to go. I read this poem one night. It's like, the train picked me up and just pulled me out to broad sunlight.
The reason it did is because that poem was written while he was in the hospital, after having a foot amputated. The state of mind that he was in when he wrote that poem is inspiring to think, if he can stay that positive and believe in himself that much in that condition, that means something. They're not just pretty words. It means something.
That's a long way from talking about Mark Twain. Still, you read a Mark Twain book, or To Kill a Mockingbird, or something like that and you think, okay, it was written during a time when that's a history lesson, as much as it is anything else. I mean, don't scrub it. Some of this stuff, Dr. Seuss. I mean, his estate is okay with scrubbing some of his books. It's like, come on.
[0:49:39] KM: No. I just said this the other day in a speech to Rotary. They were asking me about us quitting and selling, stopping selling the Confederate flag. I said, I didn't want to do it, because I don't know if people know this, but the Confederate flag was a veteran’s flag. The Bonnie Blue was the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag that we know that's been taken over by hate groups was adopted by the sons of the Confederacy as a veteran’s flag. When you saw it, it was a veteran’s flag.
I didn't like the Vietnam War. Doesn't mean I'm mad at the veterans. I was against stopping the Confederate flag, because it's a symbol for veterans. Men that may have done something in error, but never in doubt. They were honorable guys. But it got taken over by a hate group. It just became hard to do. You can't cherry pick little things, because times were different at different times.
[0:50:30] TF: You have to look at the body of work.
[0:50:32] KM: Yeah. That's what I was saying. Things were different at a different time. All right. This is the last question. What's next, Tommy? I know you've been thinking about it. What are you loving? What are you doing? What do you think about when you're not thinking about writing for the Gazette?
[0:50:45] TF: What's next is going back to the office and trying to write something for the Democrat-Gazette. I mean, honestly –
[0:50:53] KM: You don't dream about something when you lay in bed at night? I dream about owning a farm, and riding around on a four-wheeler on a farm. That's what I dream about.
[0:51:03] GM: Yeah, baby.
[0:51:05] TF: Well, I don't know. It's hard to say. I mean –
[0:51:07] KM: You got a lot, probably. You’re a hunter. You probably want to just go find your little cat in the woods.
[0:51:13] TF: I'd love for something like long lost uncle to leave me a bunch of money, and I could get my own duck club and –
[0:51:20] KM: Oh, yeah. You're a duck hunter, aren't you?
[0:51:22] TF: Yeah, I don't really. Yeah. I've been deer hunting, but it's like standing in the wilderness with a loaded rifle.
[0:51:31] KM: Freezing your ass off.
[0:51:33] TF: That's it.
[0:51:34] GM: I think that’s why dad likes it though.
[0:51:35] KM: That is exactly what my husband loves.
[0:51:37] TF: I mean, listen, some people are built more for deer hunting. Some people are built more for duck hunting.
[0:51:43] KM: Yeah. He likes the solitude of deer hunting.
[0:51:45] TF: I like to be able to talk. You can do that when you're duck hunting, until the ducks come close.
[0:51:51] KM: I wanted to say, thank you. I gave you a desk set. That is a Colorado flag for when you, because you loved it. From Colorado. That is a Washington DC flag, because you'll probably – you might end up back there.
[0:52:01] TF: Nah.
[0:52:02] KM: Of course, Arkansas and the US. That's your desk set for the Democrat-Gazette.
[0:52:05] TF: Awesome. Thank you. Thank you very much.
[0:52:06] KM: You’re so welcome.
[0:52:07] TF: I appreciate that.
[0:52:09] KM: I have enjoyed talking to you so much.
[0:52:10] TF: Well, I've enjoyed it, too.
[0:52:12] KM: I'll keep reading you.
[0:52:13] TF: Okay, I'll keep writing.
[0:52:14] KM: In closing to our listeners, I like to thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard, or learned something that's been inspiring, or enlightening and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy, and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[0:52:33] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio, and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show, or any show, email me, Gray. That's gray, G-R-A-Y@flagandbanner.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel, or podcast, wherever you like to listen. Kerry's goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.