In 2016, It was my honor to have been chosen to recognize African American History Month at the February HCDE board meeting. Throughout my life, I’ve been taught and exposed to African American history both nationally and locally. In reflecting on what to share, I thought about all that was going on in our community and more importantly in our educational community at that time.
I wanted to be sure that what I shared at the meeting that night would leave an impact. After just a little thought, a key person, their leadership and service to our beloved Chattanooga and our educational system came to the forefront of my mind. On that evening, I chose to share just a few nuggets of knowledge about a valued and legendary gem in Chattanooga’s African American History. This Gem of a man was none other than……
Mr. John Porter Franklin, Sr.:
· A respected businessman with one of the longest-standing African American businesses here in our city… The John P Franklin Funeral Home
· An educator in Chattanooga for many years, starting in the school system prior to integration.
· Upon the implementation of the physical education program, he was selected to be the first person to lead the physical education program in the African American schools here in Chattanooga
· In 1960, he was given his first position as principal at WJ Davenport School
· He was the first principal at the newly constructed Alton Park Junior High, which in later years was renamed in his honor
· In 1971, he became the first African American elected official in Chattanooga, post Jim Crow era, after being elected to serve as the Commissioner of Education and Health for the city of Chattanooga. He served in that capacity for many years.
· He was the first African American to serve as the president of the Tennessee State School Board Association
· And the first African American to serve as president of the Tennessee Municipal League, just to name a few.
It was an amazing evening, as Mr. Franklin was able to attend the meeting and share his own personal nuggets of encouragement with those in attendance.
Often when I need inspiration or guidance as to what good leadership looks like… I think of Mr. Franklin and the impactful traits he exemplified along his life journey. Humility, integrity, genuineness, kindness, compassion, concern, selflessness, and a desire to improve things for the greater good are just a few that stick out to me. He was always seeking to keep those in which he has served at the forefront of his leading and decision making. He has crossed all lines (economically, racially, educationally and politically); always advocating for equity and unity.
As a public servant, throughout the years, he has embodied traits that all of us should carry as concerned citizens and public servants. He was a true Legend in his own right - although he never liked taking credit for all that he has accomplished. He always shared it with those who have supported his efforts. He was one humble gentleman.
I have admired Mr. Franklin since I was young child. Growing up in Chattanooga, his name was a staple as a pillar in our community. His legacy has made an impact on many, including myself. When I received the news that he had slipped away from us to trade in his cross for his crown, my heart ached and smiled at the same time. I was saddened to hear the news of his passing, but rejoiced in knowing he had moved on to a better place.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote from Mr. Franklin that he shared with me back in 2014 when I embarked upon my journey as the District 5 school board member. I encourage you to remember it in your daily endeavors as I do: “No man is an island, and you can’t do anything without support and other people with you.”
We all are better people because we experienced the gentle spirit known as Mr. John Porter Franklin, Sr. I hope you feel empowered to leave a footprint in our community and the lives of others, just like this giant of a man has and is still doing in his transition.
Rest well, Mr. Franklin. The work that you have done will continue to speak for you.
Karitsa Mosley Jones
Family Friend, HCDE Vice Chair and Board Member – District 5