Oklahoma and the country have lost a great man.John Hope Franklin, revered historian and tireless advocate for equality, died this morning of congestive heart failure. He was 94. FOX 23’s Douglas Clark has more on Franklin’s extraordinary life.
Friends describe him as someone who was shy and didn’t particularly like a lot of attention. But he certainly received it for his work promoting racial equality.Franklin was truly a great American, says friend Julius Pegues.He was the son of Tulsa attorney Buck C. Franklin, whose practice was destroyed in the 1921 Race Riots. John Hope Franklin was born outside Oklahoma City, but moved to Tulsa just after the riots.He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and went on to Fisk University in Nashville. He later earned a Ph.D.from Harvard.Even though he moved on and accomplished so much, he never forgot where he came from and the struggles he and so many others endured.
As a young boy, he once helped a blind woman cross the street.About mid-way across the street, she asked him if he was black or white. And he told her he was a black young man. And she told him to get his hands off of her. And that stuck with him all of his life,recalls Pegues.
And that became his life’s mission. In 1934, he gave President Roosevelt a petition calling for change following the lynching of a black man. In 1954, Franklin helped Thurgood Marshal prepare for the debate over the Brown vs.the Board of Education case over segregation in public schools.And he taught at universities, wrote books, and gave speeches all in the name of equality.
He felt very passionately about changing the relationship between all races,says Pegues.He received more than 130 honorary doctorate degrees. And in 1997, President Clinton appointed Franklin to the President’s Initiative on Race.
There was, and still is, so much work to be done. On the very night he was to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton, a woman at his club asked him to get her coat. He responded politely that he didn’t work there. It was those moments of racism,both subtle and anything but, that kept him going, crusading for equality. That,his friends say, will be his legacy.He was a dynamic individual.When you leave his presence, you have to be a richer person, because his perspective is so broad,says Pegues. He has had a significant impact on this city,this state,and on this nation.
John Hope Franklin is survived by his son, and other family members, not to mention the many generations of students and friends he influenced.Governor Brad Henry reacted to Franklin’s death, releasing the following statement: The world has lost a brilliant scholar.This remarkable, legendary man will be sorely missed, but his contributions to our understanding of history will last forever.