By Giavonni Nickson
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson presented the city’s Gary Legend award to Elsie “Ray” Franklin posthumously. Known as a fierce fighter for her constituency, Franklin passed May 6, 2019 at the age of 81 due to health challenges. Franklin’s daughter Cheryl graciously accepted Franklin’s Legend Award.
During a presentation at the recent meeting of the Gary Common Council, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Lake County Councilwoman Elsie Franklin was a Gary Legend who made a significant impact on the city she truly loved; Gary, Indiana.
Elsie Franklin was the first African-American woman to serve on the Lake County Council. She served on the council for 17 years. Franklin held the 2nd District council seat since her first election in 2002. Health challenges forced Franklin to miss many council meetings between April 2014 and July 2015 and in recent months.
Franklin also served as the Gary Democratic Party chair for more than a decade until 2015 succeeded by Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince.
In addition to her role in county government she was prominent in Democratic politics serving as Chairwoman of the Gary Precinct Organization, Vice Chairwoman of the Lake County Democratic Party, and Captain of the Third District Precinct Organization. She also served as director of General Services under Mayor Thomas Barnes.
Last year Franklin was elected to another 4-year term on the council. Some affectionately called her the queen; the godmother in Democratic politics.
Elsie “Ray” Franklin was a true public servant dedicated to serving the community and the people of Gary, thus deserving of the Legend Award. She served honorably and consistently in the public arena working to make a difference in Gary and Lake County, Indiana.
“I was honored to know her and work with her,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson. “Her absence leaves a void in the political fabric of our community. I will always cherish our friendship and our last conversations as she still worked to encourage this community with everything she had.”
A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Franklin moved to Gary at a young age. She attended historic Gary Roosevelt High School and was a member of Clark Road Baptist Church in Gary. Funeral services were held Thursday, May 16 at the Genesis Convention Center for Lake County Councilwoman Elsie Franklin. Her legacy continues through her beautiful children: Cherylynn, Michael, Kimberly, Kenya, Keesha, Theodore and Dara.
City and county elected officials have expressed sentiments of gratitude for Franklin’s tireless dedication to public service championing for her constituents and beloved city. Franklin was regarded as one of a kind. The impact of Franklin’s legacy will forever live in the City of Gary.
“Through her accomplishments Franklin created a legacy that will live on in our community and will never be forgotten,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “It is my great pleasure to present this Gary Legend award (posthumously) to Elsie “Ray” Franklin.”
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.