Bobby Franklin and the loneliness of a political purist

Last year required several Saturday morning trips to the state Capitol to catch up on desk work. Each time, state Rep. Bobby Franklin and two or three of his like-minded friends beat me there.

State Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, in 2006/AJC file

State Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, in 2006/AJC file

Though we had enjoyed a modest friendship over the past seven years, we never talked on those weekend occasions. Primarily because Franklin and his small band had duct-taped their mouths shut in a silent protest against abortion. The fact that Franklin neither sought — nor received — any press attention for these vigils, held outside whether rain or shine, wasn’t unusual.

It was just part of his daily regimen, Bobby being Bobby.

A private burial for Franklin, a 14-year veteran of the state Capitol, was held Friday. A public memorial service will be held Monday morning in Cumming.

Even if it’s not so stated from the pulpit, the theme of the service will be the ultimate loneliness of a man who put the purity of his politics above nearly everything else.

So far as we know, the 56-year-old, divorced Republican from Marietta went to bed on a Friday, after complaining of chest pains. No one came looking for him until Tuesday morning.

In person, Franklin was as kind and soft-spoken as his bookish countenance advertised. But he was a difficult man to live with in the state Capitol. And probably outside, too.

Perhaps the most conservative lawmaker in the Capitol, Franklin was a thorn in the side of three House speakers, famous for using the red “no” button on his desk more than any of his colleagues.

State Rep. Bobby Franklin as the "Lone Range" in 2008. Elissa Eubanks, eeubanks@ajc.com

State Rep. Bobby Franklin as the "Lone Range" in 2008. Elissa Eubanks, eeubanks@ajc.com

Some called him Dr. No. At one point, only half in jest, he donned the mask of the Lone Ranger. “What he believed in — there was no compromise,” said Pat Gartland, a friend and former head of the Georgia Christian Coalition. He was the one to knock on Franklin’s door Tuesday.

This past year. Franklin introduced the first 21 bills of the legislative session. Not that many of them moved. There was a bill to permit guns in church. Another to do away with driver’s licenses. Women were angered by his proposed change to the state’s rape law that would have replaced the word “victim” with “accuser.”

Franklin’s most cherished piece of legislation was a state constitutional amendment to bestow the title of human being on every union of sperm and egg.

Critics said it would have subjected women who miscarried to criminal investigations. It never passed committee muster. But if you rang Franklin’s house, his answering machine would thank you for calling to congratulate him on the wisdom of his “personhood” legislation. And then it would beep.

Yet it wasn’t just the left that the devout Presbyterian aggravated. “Even the tea party got alienated from him, because he’d tell them where they were screwing up,” Gartland said.

In 2010, Georgia Right to Life pushed a bill to make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions on women who seek the procedure because of the race or gender of the fetus. Franklin opposed it, arguing that it amounted to a back-handed acceptance of abortion in cases where race and sex discrimination weren’t involved. The bill failed.

It is hard to explain why the unexpected death of such a contrarian sparked not even a hint of celebration from his traditional opponents. But House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams, an African-American, took a crack at it, in a WABE (90.1FM) interview.

“I never found Bobby to be anything other than thoughtful and respectful about his position,” Abrams said. ‘It was never mean and never hostile, and it was always, I think, well-intentioned.”

Abrams, when away from the Capitol, writes romantic suspense novels aimed at black women. Only two of her 235 colleagues in the Capitol have read every one of her books. “One of them was Bobby Franklin,” she said. “I would get a report on each one.”

Franklin’s high-water mark came in 2003. With Sonny Perdue as the new governor, the Legislature was in a furious debate over his proposal to hold a statewide referendum on whether Georgia should return to the 1956 state flag and its Confederate battle emblem.

From the House press gallery, I’d spotted an image on the laptop that sat upon Franklin’s desk — an attractive rendering of an older non-volatile Georgia flag based on the Stars and Bars. When I approached Franklin, he shut the laptop and politely asked me to keep my mouth shut for a few days. I did.

The Franklin flag became the immediate ancestor of the one that flies above every school and courthouse in the state. The design was altered in the Senate by George Hooks, a Democrat from Americus. The phrase “In God We Trust” was stripped from the white stripe. In typical fashion, when the flag bill returned to the House for a final vote, Franklin voted “no.”

Bobby Franklin had become something of a recluse recently. He’d lost his bookkeeping job last year, and was living on a skeletal legislator’s salary.

Gartland and his wife adopted him. “I just appreciated someone taking a stand and not waiting to stick his finger up in the air,” Gartland said.

Franklin was in good spirits that last Friday. He’d landed some work. And he had been given a look at a new map of his House district. House Republican leaders, he feared, would punish him by filling his district with new and unfamiliar voters.

“Friday, when he called me, he said they didn’t do much to his district. So he was happy. He was flying high,” Gartland said. Thus, Franklin went to bed happy.

Four days later, when police arrived, they would find the state flag that he inspired — and voted against — hanging from his front porch.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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59 comments Add your comment

Lee Weber

July 30th, 2011
3:30 pm

Very nice remembrance, Jim. Gave a good picture of the man, not just the legislator. Kudos and thanks for posting.

SpaceyG on Twitter

July 30th, 2011
4:03 pm

Trying to break our hearts, eh Jim? This was the saddest thing I’ve read all week.

Centrist

July 30th, 2011
4:17 pm

Nice tribute.

Franklin was always too far on the fringe for me on many issues, but I respected his passion.

Ghost Rider

July 30th, 2011
4:31 pm

Very good, Mr. G. Very thoughful and a lot of insight. Thank you.

Blawgdawg75

July 30th, 2011
4:35 pm

Jim, this is a well-written piece. You have honored the man and your profession. Thank you.

Nietzsche

July 30th, 2011
5:01 pm

The degree and kind of a man’s sexuality reaches into the ultimate pinnacle of his spirit.

Here

July 30th, 2011
5:04 pm

I didn’t know Representative Franklin well, but as a young lobbyist at the Capitol, he was someone I watched. I would sometimes get to the Capitol early and encounter him in the Clerk’s Office getting a cup of Robby’s coffee. “Mornin’” I would chirp.

“Mornin’, how are you today?”

“I’m well, how are you?”

“I’m blessed” he would reply.

jtfleming

July 30th, 2011
5:13 pm

Nicely written tribute to a man of conviction with whom few agreed.

Bill

July 30th, 2011
5:47 pm

Bobby Franklin was a giant — in faith, in intellect, in fidelity, in so much more. We came to be friends as we worked on the Constitutional Tender Act together — and I learned that if a majority of State legislators would only vote the Constitutional and Biblical way he voted, our State — and probably our nation — could be turned away from the coming destruction.

I know that Bobby is in the presence of Jesus now, and rejoicing forevermore. He exemplified Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Have a glorious Home-going, Bobby. I will miss you — I’m sitting here crying as I type this — but I will share your joy in full one day.

And I would be remiss in Bobby’s eyes if I didn’t ask YOU, the person reading this, two simple questions: Have you come to the place in YOUR spiritual life where YOU know for *certain* that if you were to die today, you’d go to heaven? And if you *were* to die today — as Bobby can testify, it can happen to young and old — and you were to stand before God, and He were to say to you, “WHY should I let you into my heaven”… What would you say?

Bobby answered the first question with a resounding YES (1 John 5:13) — and he answered the second question with a resounding, “Because I’m trusting in JESUS CHRIST ALONE for eternal life” (John 14:6). And Jesus has now answered back to Bobby: “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21).

Dave

July 30th, 2011
6:04 pm

Bill, I don’t agree with your or Rep. Franklin’s political or religious views (the rest of us aren’t as terrible as you may think). The piece leaves me sad. Though it makes me feel the need to try to look beyond what I see in “the papers.”

Bobby

July 30th, 2011
6:13 pm

Sorry, but I have no lost love for Bobby Franklin. He put his own personal views above those of the citizens and pretty much told everyone he disagreed with which side of hades they could go to. I won’t argue that he was a decent man, but politically I thought he was the pits and very much anti-women and much closer to Sharia attitudes than Christian attitudes in how he viewed people.

Tom

July 30th, 2011
6:48 pm

Bobby expected God would be pleased with his actions here on Earth.

Turns out….She was not amused.

Capitol Idea

July 30th, 2011
7:10 pm

It is rather difficult to argue with your claim of “loneliness”. Four days, huh. And divorced. The price a puritan pays perhaps?

MrLiberty

July 30th, 2011
7:59 pm

Funny, they call Ron Paul a political purist as well. He certainly has held unwavering principled stands for his entire political career and has on more than likely hundreds of occasions been the only person in the House voting against an unconstitional piece of legislation and yet here he is in this 3rd run for the white house and his national support have never been greater. He has hundreds of thousands of supporters who give freely of both their time and money to support the principles and the ideas he espouses.

Mr. Franklin may have been a political purist, but maybe it is the ideas you support and the way you communicate your message that leaves you “lonely.” Frankly I have read about some of his positions since his death and some sound very constitutional, very principled, and greatly in support of liberty and freedom (no, definitely not all of them). Maybe it was the inconsistency in his principles (something that plagues MOST so-called conservatives) that alienated so many.

WillieRae

July 30th, 2011
9:08 pm

Franklin represented the views of his district. He was an honorable and faithful man.

The overpowering urge to demonize even the dead with whom you disagree is a sign of the poverty of your politics and the incivility of your society.

Good Guy

July 30th, 2011
9:44 pm

I knew Bobby many years ago as a nice guy. A man of a certain kind of faith, but not my kind. Obviously pretty narrow. Not an intellectual giant, but definitely a thoughtful fellow and a considerate one. A man of principle, whose principles weren’t based on a wide spectrum of shades of gray. He will be missed for his goodness and his way of looking at things from a different perspective.

Newt is nuts

July 30th, 2011
10:35 pm

Nice article, Jim.

Frances Bouchillon

July 30th, 2011
10:49 pm

I worked as an assistant doorkeeper at the Capitol for ten years. I never met Rep. Franklin personally but knew he was a very decent man and I respected him. Concerning how he died.. going to bed happy and not waking up to a believer IS HEAVEN. None of us have a vote on “this issue”, but if we did I know Rep. Bobby Franklin would have joined all the House this last time and voted Yes to the peaceful way he died. Reminds me of a saying that I think is fitting in his sudden death. …. …”THE WAR IS OVER. IT HAS BEEN WON. THE ENEMY HAS BEEN DEFEATED. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE VICTORY. WE ARE SET FREE NOT BY HOW WE BEHAVE BUT BY WHAT WE BELIEVE.”

vuduchld

July 30th, 2011
11:07 pm

GOOD RIDDANCE!!!!

Steve Lefemine

July 30th, 2011
11:20 pm

What does the medical examiner say was the cause of death ?

Brian Laurens

July 30th, 2011
11:27 pm

Bobby was a great guy. While some would disagree with his tactics, his positions were his convictions and most conservatives would agree with them if they were to truly vote their conscious. Like his Legislation or not, no one who knew Bobby would say that he was an unkind man. He will be missed down at the Capitol and in Cobb County.

Charles

July 30th, 2011
11:29 pm

Only a real friend would write such heartfelt words. Bobby Franklin would have liked this article. It was a very nice tribute.

AA

July 30th, 2011
11:55 pm

Very well written piece.

Boonqueshia

July 31st, 2011
1:53 am

“There was a bill to permit guns in church. Another to do away with driver’s licenses. Women were angered by his proposed change to the state’s rape law that would have replaced the word “victim” with “accuser.”

Didn’t know Bobby and wasn’t in his district but I kinda like all three of those. Especially the victim/accuser change. Many of these gals who claim to have been raped are just after money, particularly when the accused has it. NY hotel maid/IMF chief being a prime example.

Road Scholar

July 31st, 2011
7:40 am

Very well written tribute.

Bill: “.. and I learned that if a majority of State legislators would only vote the Constitutional and Biblical way he voted, our State — and probably our nation — could be turned away from the coming destruction.”

And if we could also be assured to have all people live their lives and run their businesses by this credo, we wouldn’t need regulations! Unfortunately, they do not.

xamerican

July 31st, 2011
8:23 am

He was a nut-job, extremist, hate filled, right-wing fascist.

May he rest in peace.

ProgressivePeach

July 31st, 2011
8:44 am

I’ve enjoyed the AJC trying for the past week to deify a hater, a zealot, a nutcase and someone who wanted to control the lives and bodies of all of us. You can put earrings on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Franklin was a Christian Taliban, and the Legislature is better off without him. I would have preferred his district have realized how insane he was and voted him out, however. Don’t wish an early death for anyone. But the efforts of the past week to make him into something he wasn’t just because he’s dead? Sad, guys.

Pathetic Peach

July 31st, 2011
8:57 am

Progressive Peach needs to look in the mirror and search for faults there first.

Angela Wittman

July 31st, 2011
9:26 am

The true measure of a man is how tall he will stand when alone and in this measure Rep. Franklin excelled. I am hoping Mr. Galloway means well with this editorial, but readers may get the impression that being a political “purist” is not good. Well, folks, it is just the opposite and if anything, proves that the grass root citizens of this nation need to speak a little louder and show the politically impure that we want our nation back.

Neal Horsley

July 31st, 2011
10:08 am

When I last ran for Governor, he was the only Geogia legislator willing to have me in his office and listen to me try to convince him that electing me Governor was the only way to break the logjam Satan has created in this nation. I wept when I heard he had died.

mike 'hussein' smith

July 31st, 2011
10:42 am

Jim, you convinced me this troll wouldn’t go around kicking strangers in the shins, but he was a Scrooge without redemption.

Tom

July 31st, 2011
10:49 am

Franklin was a theocrat. You cannot be a theocrat, yet hold yourself out as someone who defends and protects the Constitution, as the two are wholly incompatible.

dcb

July 31st, 2011
11:05 am

Didn’t know Franklin. And I’m not from his district. But …. you have to sit up and take notice when every article you read about him after his demise is positive regarding his “taking a stand.”- regardless of political party or stature. May he rest in peace. And even more (as I’m sure he would have agreed), may we enjoy even more public servants like him in the future.

Auntie Christ

July 31st, 2011
12:51 pm

Thank you xamerican and progressive peach for giving the proper description of this crackpot. It is truly amazing how the rubes in this state idolize nut cases and haters while constantly vilifying true Christians like Jimmy Carter, Dr King, et al.

Libertarian

July 31st, 2011
1:28 pm

Tom is right ie… a theocrat is an enemy of liberty and the constitution and remember the bible is not the law of the land nor is it mentioned in the constitution. WE are a free nation not a christian one.

Pathetic Peach

July 31st, 2011
3:20 pm

I’d like to know if Auntie Christ remembers the main plank of Jimmy Carter’s campaign for Governor. He promised to bring George Wallace over from Alabama to speak to the Georgia legislature if he got elected. Which is exactly what he did. Carter and King, like all of us, had their faults … as did Bobby Franklin. It’s the arrogant know-it-alls who point fingers with such assurance.

arrogant know-it-all

July 31st, 2011
3:45 pm

“The smoking gun is the mushroom cloud.”

Jeff Sexton

July 31st, 2011
4:45 pm

Bobby Franklin was not a man I agreed with politically very often – indeed, I called him out a number of times on my blog.

But when I was working some particular pieces and needed some data, he was one of the most reliable people to turn to for getting it – and this was AFTER I had blistered him pretty well. He was just that nice of a man.

Many of Bobby’s positions were, quite frankly, dangerous in a number of ways – yet this was the very antithesis of the man. Even when pretty well any man in the State would have been about to deck a man, I genuinely don’t think Bobby ever even CONSIDERED the thought.

In the end though, I think Rep Franklin came to be a lesson to us all – at the end of the day, you can choose your family or the world. Choose Wisely.

Matthew Stout

July 31st, 2011
4:47 pm

July 2007, US House of Representatives, Washington D.C.

I seated Bobby Franklin in the gallery next to Jim Galloway during Congressman Paul Broun swearing in. On the front page of Sunday’s AJC was a photo of other ultra-conservatives … (then State Reps) Tom Graves and Martin Scott congratulating the new Congressman Broun.

Bobby was loved the most by the Freedom and Liberty crowd; and hated the most by the progressive and utra-liberty crowd.

Under the Gold Dome, he worked tirelessly in a hornets nest, was stung every day. In great pain and suffering during his defense of the Constitution and the Original Intent. He began to anticipate the RINO and liberal antagonism, and let people know where they stand with him, especially after they sell out.

An honest man under the Gold Dome is a rare find, and indeed a great loss.

HotTea

July 31st, 2011
6:50 pm

Enter your comments here

doc

July 31st, 2011
6:59 pm

Why are you whitewashing the history of this hateful man? He wished for the death of us ga_y people. I dare say ill toast the death of this weasel. Good riddance! I hope he suffered. A lot.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

July 31st, 2011
7:10 pm

Though Mr. Franklin is now with G-d, as each of us is in passing, the errors in his theology might have been mended had he, as a patriot, studied the writings of our anointed Author, Founder, and Prophet, Thomas Jefferson. It is the least any intelligent American seeking understanding, should do; and a demand the Electorate should make of any candidate for holy elected office.

While his imperfect understanding of the perfect, eternal, infinite and ineffable Creator led him to some false, though sincerely held, positions, he was correct about our money system and the present need to restore constitutional money, as President Kennedy attempted until “removed from office.”

One must wonder, had we single-payer health insurance, as we ought, might Mr. Franklin, no doubt lacking health insurance, have sought help for the archetypical heart symptoms he experienced, rather than foregoing the shame and embarrassment of seeking care at a charity facility and instead went to sleep knowing, in faith, his near destination we all shall face one day.

Ignorance is neither a luxury nor affordable. It shall gain only our national demise if not corrected.

May his children be blessed.

Ordinary Citizen

July 31st, 2011
7:36 pm

Bobby Franklin may indeed have been a very nice gentleman who was consistent in his principles. I, however, would not want to live in the semi-secular world he wanted to bring into being, one in which women who miscarried would be subject to criminal investigation and those who did not share his Christian beliefs would be forced to live under a flag of his making. His vision was anathema to the concept of democracy. Let him rest in peace. Let him be remembered as a kind man. But make no mistake—a political world created by Bobby Franklin would be hell on earth for many citizens.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

July 31st, 2011
9:32 pm

The Old Sectarian Order, much of Mr. Franklin’s views better accommodated, was displaced by The Founders “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” The New Secular Order. This is the Roman Anti-Christ’s goal, to repeal our revolution and reinstate history’s default order, caesaropapism. Southern politicians’ supporting the same historic political entity for which General Sherman was working, that which Mr. Jefferson correctly identified as “the real Anti-Christ,” is ironic at best. True Americans, but particularly Baptists and Freemasons, White and Black, should know better.

Bill Simon

August 1st, 2011
12:20 am

Thank you for a really nice read, Jim.

GB

August 1st, 2011
6:45 am

One of the comments above calls Bobby a fascist. Xamerican person should look up the word ‘fascism’ in the dictionary. It means something other than someone winning an argument with a liberal.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

August 1st, 2011
9:21 am

Though Bobby may not have thought of himself as a fascist, those wishing to violate the spirit of individual sovereignty at the center of American Exceptionalism, by denying a woman control over her own body and reproduction, are playing into the hands of that which Our Founder, Thomas Jefferson, identified as “an engine for enslaving mankind,” whose operative symbol is the Fasces: the Roman Anti-Christ, “de facto” fascism.

John

August 1st, 2011
10:05 am

An outstanding piece of writing. I rarely if ever agreed with his stands on the issues but he was someone who believed passionately about the issues and practiced his beliefs.

a moderate

August 1st, 2011
11:29 am

I used to see Bobby quite often in the elevator or the hallways around the Capitol. While I abhorred his political positions, no one who knew him at all can say that he was a hateful man. The opposite, in fact. It is one of the more curious things about politics and personal beliefs – sometimes the people we disagree with the most are the most well-intentioned. We would ALL do well to remember that, instead of villifying and demonizing those with whom we disagree. THAT, folks, rather than any particular belief system, would make this state and country a much better place.

T Knight

August 1st, 2011
2:46 pm

Very well written Mr. Galloway.