Harold A. Franklin, the first Black student to attend Auburn University, died Thursday morning of natural causes at his home in Talladega, Alabama. Franklin was 88.
In 1964, Franklin enrolled as a graduate student at Auburn University, making him the first Black student to enroll at the University. Administration denied Franklin the chance to defend his master’s thesis that he wrote in 1969.
Franklin went on to earn his master’s degree in history from the University of Denver and worked in higher education as a professor and administrator for nearly 30 years before retiring from education in 1992. Franklin was awarded an honorary doctorate from Auburn in 2001.
In 2015, the University built a historic marker to honor Franklin near the Ralph Brown Draughon Library.
On Feb. 19, 2020, Franklin defended the master’s thesis he wrote in 1969, which was finally accepted by the University, in front of the history department.
The Auburn Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Council recently named a scholarship in honor of Franklin, and the Harold A. Franklin Society was created on campus in his honor in 2008 to serve underrepresented male students at Auburn University.
“Dr. Franklin was a pioneer who paved the way for other African American students to attend Auburn University,” said Auburn University President Jay Gogue in a statement from the University Thursday. “Auburn is a better institution because of Dr. Franklin’s bravery 57 years ago. His spirit of internal fortitude will continue to inspire us.”
Franklin was born on Nov. 2, 1932, in Talladega, Alabama, one of 10 children to George Franklin Sr. and Henrietta Eugenia Williams Franklin.
Franklin served in the U.S. Air Force, leaving high school to join American efforts in the Korean War.
Franklin married Lilla Mae Sherman who preceded him in death. He is survived by his son Harold Franklin Jr., according to Terry’s Metropolitan Mortuary in Talladega, where Franklin’s obituary was published and where he worked before his death.
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Evan Mealins, senior in philosophy and economics, is the editor-in-chief of The Auburn Plainsman.