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Chester Arthur Franklin, a Black businessman, was born on this date in 1880.
Franklin was born in Texas, the only child of George F. Franklin, a barber, and Clara Belle Williams Franklin, a teacher. Young Franklin finished high school in Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska for two years. He was forced to leave the university when his father became ill. In an effort to help the elder Mr. Franklin regain his health, the family moved to Denver in 1898, where they bought the "Colorado Statesman" newspaper, later renaming it “The Star,” because it was shorter and easier for the average person to pronounce.
At age 17, Franklin took over his father’s business and the younger Franklin continued to publish “The Star” in Denver until 1913 when he decided to move to Kansas City where a larger Negro population offered more opportunity for a newspaper to grow. There he founded the Kansas City "THE CALL." The paper Franklin founded had many obstacles to overcome during its first years. When he set up his first typesetting machine, there was no one to run it. The local printers’ union forbade experienced men to give him help. "Mother" Franklin, as the editor’s mother was called, worked side by side with her son in building the newspaper. She went from door to door in the evenings selling subscriptions to THE CALL.
Franklin believed in giving young people a chance in the business and trained them to be good newspapermen and women, good printers, salespeople, and clerks. In 1925, Franklin cast aside his printer’s apron and journeyed to Philadelphia, where he was married to Ada Crogman. Together, the couple and Mother Franklin labored side-by-side, building one of the finest newspapers in the Midwest. Franklin attributed much of his success to the two women in his life, his mother and his wife.
Franklin also took an interest and participate in civic and community affairs, when he first came to Kansas City. He was active in the campaign to raise money to build the Paseo YMCA building. He was a former member of the branch’s committee of management. He also was active in the effort to establish the Wheatley-Provident Hospital, serving as chairman of the board of directors at the time the hospital was incorporated. Through the years, THE CALL has continued to serve the community and to speak out on issues affecting the welfare of African American people. Chester Arthur Franklin died on May 7, 1955.
Black Saga The African American Experience A Chronology
by Charles M. Christian
Copyright 1995, Civitas/Counterpoint