Julius Franks Jr.
Dec. 1, 2008
Dr. Julius Franks Jr., the last surviving member of Western Michigan University's first Board of Trustees, died Nov. 26. He was 86.
Franks, who retired after a lengthy career as a dentist in Grand Rapids, Mich., was appointed to WMU's first board in 1964 by then-Michigan Gov. George Romney. He served as a trustee until 1983
Franks was revered in his home community as a civil rights leader who helped integrate the city's neighborhoods. In 1962, he and three colleagues launched a housing development in Grand Rapids that became know as Auburn Hills and was promoted as a welcoming location for minority residents to build new housing.
Born in Macon, Ga., Franks grew up in Hamtramck, Mich. He was well known as a University of Michigan football star in the 1940s and became that university's second African American to be named an All-American. His football career was cut short by a bout with tuberculosis that required more than two years of treatment. Years later, in 1982, Franks was honored for his athletic accomplishments by being named to the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in the fifth class of inductees.
Franks eventually graduated from U of M in 1947 and went on to dental school there, graduating in 1951 as the only African American in that class. Later that year, he moved to Grand Rapids and opened a private practice, providing professional service to the community for the next 40 years. In addition to his work in desegregating the city's neighborhoods and developing new housing opportunities for minorities, Franks was a leader in that city's Urban League, United Way, American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, and Rotary Club.
Visitation is set for 1 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, at the Gillespie-Moody Funeral Home, 1865 Eastern Ave., SE, in Grand Rapids. The funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at Renaissance Church of God and Christ, 1001 33rd St. SE, also in Grand Rapids.
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