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Encyclopedia > C. L. Franklin
Image:Rev. C.L. Franklin.jpg
C.L. Franklin

Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin ("Rev. C. L. Franklin"), January 22, 1915 - July 27, 1984, was a highly influential Black Baptist preacher and civil rights activist. Baptist is a term describing a tradition within Christianity and may also refer to individuals belonging to a Baptist church or a Baptist denomination. ... Preacher is a colloquial term for a clergyman, in particular a local priest, pastor or Minister; one who preaches. ... Activism, in a general sense, can be described as intentional action to bring about social or political change. ...



Franklin was born and raised in Sunflower County, Mississippi and at age 16 received a message from God to become a preacher. He initially worked as an itinerant "circuit" preacher, before settling in Memphis, Tennessee and later moving to Buffalo, New York. His final destination was Detroit, Michigan where he became head of the New Bethel Baptist Church. Throughout the 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", C. L. 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. He commanded high fees for his public appearances, and among his most famous sermons were "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest" and "Dry Bones in the Valley". In addition to being a gifted preacher C. L. was known for his fine singing voice. He greatly encouraged his daughter Aretha's music talent, and by the late 1950s took Aretha with him on speaking tours and musical engagements. This article does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

In addition to his ministry, in the 1950s and 1960s as he became involved in the civil rights movement, and particularly in ending discriminatory practices against Black UAW workers in Detroit. The United Auto Workers (UAW), officially the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union, is one of the largest labor unions in North America, with more than 700,000 members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico organized into approximately 950 union locals. ...

Personal Life

On October 16, 1934 C. L. married his first wife, Alene Gaines, and though that marriage had certainly ended by 1936, the form of dissolution is unknown. On June 3, 1936 C. L. married Barbara Siggers Franklin and they had four children: Erma, Cecil, Aretha, and Carolyn. Barbara Siggers Franklin had a son, Vaughn (whom C. L. adopted), by a previous relationship, and in 1940 C. L. fathered a daughter, Carl Ellan Kelley, out of wedlock by a teenager in his congregation. In 1948 C. L. and Barbara separated, with Barbara taking Vaughn to Buffalo, New York and leaving C. L. with the couple's four other children. Barbara made trips back to Detroit to visit her children until her death from heart trouble in 1952. Barbara Vernice Siggers Franklin (born June 29, 1917 in Shelby, Mississippi) was mother of the legendary soul and gospel singer Aretha Franklin and wife of C. L. Franklin, the famous Black Baptist preacher. ... Erma Vernice Franklin (March 13, 1938–September 7, 2002) was an American soul, rhythm and blues, and pop singer. ... Aretha Louise Franklin (born March 25, 1942) is an American soul, R&B, and gospel singer, songwriter, and pianist born in Memphis, Tennessee, but raised in Detroit, Michigan, USA. She has been called for many years The Queen Of Soul, but many also call her Lady Soul, as well as... Carolyn Franklin is the younger sister of soul music singer Aretha Franklin, she was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 13, 1944. ...

C. L. Franklin was a friend and ally of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was also known for his close relationships with Mahalia Jackson and Clara Ward (Clara and her singing groups frequently toured with C.L. and he and Clara had a long-term romantic relationship), two of gospel's greatest voices. Mahalia and Clara greatly encouraged his daughter, Aretha, and she credits their mentoring and frequent visits to the Franklin home as great influences. Martin Luther King redirects here. ... Mahalia Jackson (October 26, 1911[1] – January 27, 1972) was an American gospel singer, widely regarded as the best in the history of the genre. ... Clara Ward (April 21, 1924 - January 16, 1973)[1] was a gospel artist who achieved great success, both artistic and commercial, in the 1940s and 1950s as leader of The Famous Ward Singers. ...


On June 10, 1979 C. L. was shot during an attempted robbery at his home, became comatose, and remained so for five years. He died on July 27, 1984. His great friend Rev. Jasper Williams Jr., of Salem Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA., gave the eulogy.

Further Reading

  • Salvatore, Nick, Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America, Little Brown, 2005, Hardcover ISBN: 0-316-16037-7.
  • Schwerin, Jules, Got to Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, Oxford University Press, 1992, Paperback ISBN: 0-19-509050-0.
  • Interview with Nick Salvatore, author of Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4527908
  • Royster-Ward, Willa, How I Got Over: Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers, Temple University Press, 1997, Paperback ISBN: 1-56639-490-2.



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