Funeral services will be Friday for John P. Franklin, Chattanooga's first elected black official in the post Jim Crow era. Mr. Franklin died Thursday at the age of 96.
He will lie in state in the chapel of John P. Franklin Funeral Home from noon until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday,.
Public viewing will resume at 11 a.m. on Thursday at Olivet Baptist Church, and a public memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. that evening at the church.
A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday at Christ Episcopal Church, 663 Douglas St.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in John P. Franklin’s loving memory to either of the following: John P. Franklin Sr. Scholarship Fund, c/o Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, 1270 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402; or Howard School Literacy Fund, 2500 South Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408.
Mr. Franklin's father, G.W. Franklin, was a pioneer funeral home director and John Franklin continued in that line. He was first an official in Franklin-Strickland Funeral Home. He then started the John P. Franklin Funeral Home with his son and daughter, John P. Franklin, Jr. and Cheryl Franklin Key.
Mr. Franklin attended East Fifth Street School and is a graduate of Howard High School. Upon graduating from Howard, he attended Tuskegee Institute for two years before beginning service in the Army in 1942. Upon returning to Chattanooga after World War II, he worked for the family business his father had founded, Franklin Funeral Home.
Because his mother was a teacher for many years in the Chattanooga School System, Mr. Franklin was determined to complete his education. In 1950 he earned a bachelor’s of science degree in physical education from Fisk University and subsequently earned a master’s degree in education and health in 1951 from Indiana University.
Mr. Franklin, again, returned home to work in the family business and also applied for a job with the city school system. After serving as a coach and teacher at Orchard Knob Junior High School, Mr. Franklin was selected to head the physical education program for black secondary schools of the city. In 1960, he was named principal of W.J. Davenport School and a year later he went to Alton Park Junior High School as principal, a position he held until 1971.
In 1971, Mr. Franklin entered the city’s political arena, successfully running for Commissioner of Education and Health, holding the position for 20 years. As a recipient of the highest number of votes among successful commission candidates, he served as vice-mayor for four terms.
During this same period of time, Mr. Franklin served as chairman of the City School Board and in 1981 he served as president of the Tennessee School Boards Association. Upon leaving the government stage in 1991, he returned to assist other family members with operating the family business.
Mr. Franklin was the recipient of numerous awards and honors from many professional and civic groups for his educational and civic involvement. In addition, he received recognition and awards from several organizations and institutions for meritorious service and business leadership in the community and state.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 44 years, Eva James Mann Franklin.
Mr. Franklin is survived by his two children, John P. Franklin, Jr. and Cheryl (Charles) Franklin Key, as well as grandchildren, Danielle (Charles) Desarzant, Jakali McClendon, Calyn and Chandler Key; great-granddaughter, Gabrielle Desarzant; nephew, Michael McFarland, and a host of relatives and friends.