Reau Estes Folk was born in the city of Brownsville in Haywood County, Tennessee on September 21, 1865. He was the son of Henry Bate Folk and Martha Cornelia Estes Folk. As a child, he attended the schools in Brownsville and later became a student at Wake Forest College in North Carolina. After studying at Wake Forest for two years, Treasurer Folk returned to Brownsville and studied law with his father.
Treasurer Folk left the study of law and began a career with news publications. Initially, he took a position with the local weekly newspaper in Brownsville known as the Democrat. However, he was soon after offered and accepted a position with the Nashville American as a reporter. After a year working with the Nashville American, Treasurer Folk went to Memphis, Tennessee to serve as city editor of the Daily Scimitar newspaper.
In 1891, he returned to Nashville and became a member of the Nashville American staff once again. Treasurer Folk continued to work with the Nashville American until 1893 when he was elected chief clerk of the Tennessee House of Representatives. He served as chief clerk for every session from 1893 to 1899. During the times the House of Representatives was not in session, Treasurer Folk resumed work with newspapers in Nashville, New York City and Washington, D.C, including serving as the city editor and later managing editor of the Daily Sun of Nashville for two years, from 1895 to 1897.
In 1901, Treasurer Folk was elected as the State Treasurer of Tennessee. During that same year, he married Nannie Dudley Pilcher and they eventually had three children. Their names were Winston, Judith, and Reau, Jr. In 1903, he was reelected as State Treasurer and remained in the position until 1911.
In 1911, Treasurer Folk retired from his political office and accepted a position as agency manager for the Equitable Life Assurance Society, one of the largest life insurance companies in the country at that time. His territory comprised of the central and eastern parts of Tennessee and he maintained his headquarters in Nashville.
While Treasurer Folk was involved in many different occupations, he also participated in several organizations in his community. He was a member of the executive committee of the National Insurance Commissioner’s conventions, a member of the Baptist Church, a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
After serving his community and state in various ways, Treasurer Folk died on February 8, 1948. He was buried in the Mt. Olivet cemetery in Nashville.
Reference: Tennessee: The Volunteer State, 1769-1923, Vol. IV (Chicago, IL: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1923); Will T. Hale and Dixon L. Merritt, A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans, Vol. IV (Chicago, IL: Lewis Publishing Company, 1913); John Allison, Notable Men of Tennessee; Personal and Genealogical (Atlanta, GA: Southern Historical Association, 1905); James I. Finney, “Reau E. Folk, Treasurer of Tennessee” Nashville Tennessean, 7 June 1908, p.A6; “Reau Estes Folk,” Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1958, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN.