Born and raised in Marshville, N.C. by a single mother, my outlook on life was molded by hard work, grit, and determination. Growing up in the midst of the civil rights era further solidified in my mind the idea that I had the ability to shape my life through my own effort regardless of conditions around me. I performed well in school and managed to become the co-captain of the varsity basketball team and the first African American Vice President at Forest Hills High School. Though I understood that my actions, positive or negative, had a direct effect on my life, I became sidetracked by some negative choices and it wouldn’t be until a bit later that I truly understood the strength of that relationship.
As a result of those choices, I was sentenced to a total of 29 years for armed robbery and served more than 10 years in the North Carolina prison system. I learned then that we all must pay for our choices, and I was no exception. Those years of my life were filled with anger, disappointment and embarrassment, but, more importantly, there was growth and development as well. In December of 1989 I was paroled with $30 in my pocket and the clothes on my back. And as I walked out of what had been my home for more than 10 years, one thought in my mind permeated throughout my entire being: “I am not going back there.”
The rest of my life, from that point to today, has been an experiment of sorts. I have set out to prove that we are not confined by our pasts and that we can always turn our negatives into positives. It wasn’t long before I went from hitchhiking to and from work until I could afford a car to starting my own tax business that allowed me the freedom to begin giving back to my community beyond what my conviction required. I became a Sunday School teacher in my home church and counseled others to help them avoid some of my own pitfalls. Later, I began to donate my time and money to organizations like the YWCA, and, over the next few years, I was honored with several awards including the Governor’s Award for Volunteering from Governor Jim Hunt, the Union County Chamber of Commerce Minority Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Few Good Men’s Citizen of the Year Award.
In 2005, I was elected to serve as the Mayor of my hometown: Marshville N.C., and I am presently in my 7th term. I am the first and only African American elected to serve in this capacity of all the 14 municipalities in Union County. I feel even more honored and humbled to hold this position when I consider that I spent more than 10 years repaying a debt to this town and community.
I am the proud father of 5 children: Shaunda (deceased), Kimberly, Tiffany, Franklin II, and Kamilah, and I am the proud grandfather of 4: Jayla, Jamylan, Jacyn and Alise.
WHY I DO WHAT I DO
There are three areas of service that help make up who I am today and drive me to do even more: service to children and young adults, service to the prison population (past and present), and service to the public. As a society, shaping the minds of our children is one of the most sacred duties we have. It is important that we imbue the generations that follow with the character and courage they need to succeed and be a positive change in this world. That is why I make it a point to mentor and serve as an example to our children and young adults. If my story can help even one child avoid the troubles I endured as a youth, then my efforts are worthwhile.
I believe it is also important to continue providing support beyond one’s mistakes, and this is why I make time to visit prison populations and work with the recently released. I have an intimate understanding of not only how difficult life within prison walls can be, but an understanding of the challenge people face once their debt to society has been repaid. It is important that as a society, we embrace those who haven’t made the best decisions. It is not only the humane thing to do but the smart thing to do financially. We must extend a hand of compassion and support so that they may realize their own potential and the good they can do for themselves and their fellow man.
Lastly, I believe in service to my community. The importance of our communities in shaping our lives cannot be overstated. My community had a profound effect on who I became, and it is easy for me to think back to influences I wish I’d had or structural supports that I wish were there. Our communities have the capacity to affect us negatively or positively, and I believe it is up to each one of us to come together to ensure that we’re producing positive effects for our friends, families, and children. That is why I have spent virtually all of my 20+ years since I was released from prison giving back to my community, first through small business ownership, then through public office. I have always felt that whether I’m serving a customer or a voter, service with a smile and a spirit of humility helps build a community that radiates positivity and keeps people on the right path.