I couldn't wait till Monday to pay tribute to this Mentor!
Last night I dreamt about the discussion that must be going on in heaven right now between the Honorable Justice Thurgood Marshall and John Hope Franklin, the revered Duke University historian who died Wednesday at 94 years old. From separate water fountains to the inauguration of the first African-American President...whose ascension to the White House was called by Professor Franklin ''one of the most historic moments, if not the most historic moment, in the history of this country;'' the things Professor Franklin witnessed over his more than nine decades on this earth could fill bookshelves for many years to come. I remember reading his book ''From Slavery to Freedom'' in college and have used it again and again as my historical "bible" over the years. It is easy to agree with the NY Times that this book "was a landmark integration of black history into American history that remains relevant more than 60 years after being published." His credentials were second to none. From Fisk to Harvard to Cambridge University, his thirst for knowledge led him all over the world. He received more honors and awards from every prestigious organization you can imagine and many more than I can begin to name. Yet, he was very clear on the historical inequalities that still exist in the United States. He said, for example, that the evening before he received the highest civilian honor our country can give, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, from then President Bill Clinton, a woman at his private club in Washington, D.C., asked him to get her coat. Around the same time, a man at a hotel handed Franklin his car keys and told him to get his car. "I patiently explained to him that I was a guest in the hotel, as I presumed he was, and I had no idea where his automobile was. And, in any case, I was retired," Franklin said. Both of these incidents occurred when he was in his 80s.
This elegant man and gifted scholar was everything we should aspire to be. His life serves as the quintessential example of excellence that should motivate nothing but forward movement; regardless of your race. I know that I owe most of my educational accomplishments to Professor Franklin and his honor Justice Marshall. For it was Professor Franklin's research that helped Thurgood Marshall and his team at the NAACP win Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that barred the doctrine of ''separate but equal'' in the nation's public schools. I get to say "I'm a lawyer" because of this brilliant man who stood head and shoulders above so many but never lost sight of his purpose in our society. He led by example and it behooves us to do him the honor of allowing his example to be the benchmark we strive towards for generations to come.
For more information on Professor John Hope Franklin click on the title of this post and/or see his official bio here.