January 22, 1915 – July 27, 1984
Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, often called Bishop C. L. Franklin was an American Baptist minister, a civil rights activist, and father of the legendary soul and gospel singer Aretha Franklin.
Born Clarence LaVaughn Walker in Sunflower County, Mississippi, to sharecroppers Willie Walker and Rachel Walker née Pittman. After returned from service in World War I in 1919, Willie Walker abandoned the family shortly thereafter (Clarence was only four years old), and the next year Rachel married Henry Franklin, whose surname the family adopted.
At age 16, he became a preacher, initially working the Black itinerant preaching circuit, before settling at New Salem Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where he remained until May 1944. From there he moved to the pulpit of the Friendship Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York, where he served until June 1946 when he became pastor of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.
Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s his fame grew, and he preached throughout the country while maintaining his pulpit at New Bethel. Known as the man with the “Million Dollar Voice”, Franklin was one of the first ministers to place his sermons on records (which continued into the 1970s), and also to broadcast sermons via radio on Sundays. Among his most famous sermons were “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest” and “Dry Bones in the Valley.” In addition to his fame as a preacher, Franklin was known for his fine singing voice. He greatly encouraged his daughter Aretha Franklin in her musical endeavors, and during the 1950s took Aretha with him on speaking tours and musical engagements.
In addition to his ministry, in the 1950s and 1960s as he became involved in the civil rights movement, and worked to end discriminatory practices against black United Auto Workers members in Detroit.
C. L. Franklin was a close friend and supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr., who deeply admired Rev. Franklin, and was also known for his close relationships with Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward, two of gospel music’s greatest voices. Mahalia and Clara greatly encouraged his daughter, Aretha, who credits their mentoring and frequent visits to the Franklin home as great influences.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, June 10, 1979, Franklin was shot twice at point blank range during what was said to be an attempted robbery at his home on Detroit’s West Side. Rev Franklin was taken to Henry Ford Hospital. He remained in a coma for the next five years. The Franklin children moved him back to the house six months after the tragedy and installed a 24-hour nurse at the residence to monitor the minister. He remained at the home until the middle of 1984. He died on July 27, 1984, just one week after being placed in Detroit’s New Light Nursing Home. He was 69 years old.
Franklin was entombed at Detroit’s historic Woodlawn Cemetery on North Woodward Avenue, with his friend, Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., of the Salem Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia, giving the eulogy.
Posted in Tribute | No Comments »
Leave a Comment