Chattanooga City Council honored a trailblazer John P. Franklin, Sr. today.
Led by District 8 City Councilman Anthony Byrd and Deputy Chief Operating Officer Tony Sammons, the City Council building and chambers were renamed to honor the City’s first African-American elected official.
Mr. Franklin’s involvement in business, education, and government impacted numerous lives in the community and his service spanned more than 20 years.
“He set the stage for me to be a councilman and gave me the playbook on how to do the job right,” Councilman Byrd said.
Franklin graduated from Howard High School, attended Tuskegee Institute and then served his country during World War II. He later obtained a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Fisk University and a master’s degree in health and education from Indiana University.
He began his career in education as a teacher at Orchard Knob Jr. High School and was selected to head the physical education program for black secondary schools throughout the city. Subsequently, he was named principal of W.J. Davenport School and became the first principal of Alton Park Junior High School.
“Mr. Franklin’s legacy and career has helped me realize, first, that we are all servants,” said Chattanooga Deputy Operating Officer Anthony Sammons. “Throughout my whole career, I’ve emulated his ways of communicating with people where they are. He was one of my mentors and a dear family friend and he poured nuggets of wisdom into me throughout my childhood and working career.”
His impressive and historic government career began in 1971, when Franklin became Chattanooga’s first African American elected official — Commissioner of Education and Health. That service continued for five terms on the City Council where he served as Vice Mayor for four of those terms. Franklin also served as Chairman of the Chattanooga City School board during this same period and was elected as the president of the Tennessee School Boards Association in 1981. He was also the first African American president of the Tennessee Municipal League.
“Our community is better because of his desire to see it as a city that represents all its cultures and talents,” Sammons said. “He fought to break the racial barriers that prevented people of color from serving our communities in every field of human endeavor.”
“Because of his dedication to the City and community we have a solid foundation to stand on,” Byrd added.