The Bulloch legal community, along with family and friends were rocked early this morning by the news of the death of a giant in our community, Lehman Franklin, Jr., age 80.

Lehman Franklin, Jr. died peacefully last night, in his sleep, at his home in Statesboro. Franklin had worked a full day in his office on Wednesday and did not exhibit any signs of illness, according to his long time personal assistant and paralegal, Linda Conley.

Lehman will be remembered for his quick wit, incredible legal mind and his business acumen. He will also be known for his deep love for his family, including his children and grandchildren.

Lehman the lawyer, Businessman and Character

I could go on and on about what a great lawyer Lehman was and how incredible he was in business. I worked for one of Lehman’s companies, Statesboro CATV and helped him with his hotels. With this, I had a greater insight than most to his incredible talents.

But knowing Lehman as I did, that is not how he would want this story to go. He would want me to share the good times, well the ones that I can write about in a medium such as this. He could get in the most incredible fix’s, but would always maneuver his way out. He was also an impossible interview.

I recall a quote from him in a business story written by my predecessor at the Statesboro Herald about a piece of property he was clearing for development in 2012 which is classic Lehman Franklin:

 Franklin said he has a preliminary plan in place for marketing the acreage.
      “I am going to put a For Sale by Donald Nesmith sign on the property,” he said.
      “That should do it.”
      Franklin did say that with a chuckle, and obviously tongue-in-cheek, but for those of you who may not know, Nesmith is a very successful developer whose projects always seem to do very well.

An Obituary Long in the Making

To give context to this portion of the story, Lehman would always introduce me to strangers as the most important man in Statesboro and encouraged them to always treat me well. He would continue, “Because he has the last word on everyone who dies in Bulloch County. He is the chief obituary writer for the Statesboro Herald”, Lehman would say with that signature Franklin laugh.

While I did serve as the Business Editor for the Statesboro Herald, I never had anything to do with obits. That didn’t stop Lehman from making strangers think I did. I have to admit, it is comical how much nicer people treat you, however, if they think you may be writing their last story.

With that, I never imagined I would be writing Lehman’s last story. But we sure have had fun discussing his obituary. When I would see cute ones, I would send them over for “review”.

One of our last conversations a few days ago, ironically, I was about a ribbing him about an obituary, Dr. Ruthie Crider’s brother had clipped from the Chatsworth newspaper and sent to her.

I sent it to him and accused him of writing it:

In typical Lehman style, he replied back with his favorite obituary he claimed was written for his “close friend”, and I assume after reading the obituary one of Lehman’s top clients, William Freddie McCullough from Bloomingdale, Georgia. He wanted to make sure I used it as the draft. Here are the first few lines of McCullough’s obit:

William Freddie McCullough – BLOOMINGDALE – The man. The myth. The legend. Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him. William Freddie McCullough died on September 11, 2013. Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order. He was a master craftsman who single -handedly built his beautiful house from the ground up. Freddie was also great at growing fruit trees, grilling chicken and ribs, popping wheelies on his Harley at 50 mph, making everyone feel appreciated and hitting Coke bottles at thirty yards with his 45.

Lehman told me to make sure I called Doug Lambert, Lee Johnson, Kenny Stone and Gerald Edenfield to help fill in any fuzzy spots. But he quickly reminded me that they were were all damn liars and never to believe anything they said about him.

Well old friend, I have to say that I almost had your children in agreement to allow me full liberty on “telling” your story with your obituary. But as usual the voice of reason in your life, Linda Conley, stepped up and took over.

But please understand Lehman, that I did put up a good fight. So for now this will be our final farewell. Well done my friend. Enjoy your well deserved peace.

Here is your wonderful Obituary, written by Linda Conley and your Children:

H. Lehman Franklin, Jr. Obituary

H. Lehman Franklin, Jr. passed away December 31 at the age of 80.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Herbert Lehman Franklin, Sr. and Margaret McArthur Franklin, and his brother, James William (Billy) Franklin.   

He was a 1958 graduate of Statesboro High School.  He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1962 (BBA) and from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1964 (JD). He was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.  He served in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of 1st Lieutenant, Artillery.   

Mr. Franklin began practicing law with Cohen Anderson, and formed his own law firm in 1968.   He has practiced in Statesboro since that time.  He was a member of the State Bar of Georgia, American Bar Association, and American Association for Justice.  He was admitted to the Supreme Court of Georgia, Georgia Court of Appeals, the U. S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia; the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  He attained an AV (Preeminent) rating by Martindale-Hubbell. 

Mr. Franklin was past member of the Board of Directors of the Herty Foundation and served as Chairman for many years.   

Mr. Franklin became actively engaged in business at an early age and became involved in the development of apartments, offices, subdivisions, motels and restaurants primarily in the Southeastern part of the United States.  He was involved in many local business ventures, including Statesboro CATV, Bel Air Estates, and Iron Gate Subdivision.   He also owned and/or operated several motels and restaurants in the Southeast for many years, having served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Restaurant Council of the Howard Johnson Company.   In addition to his business interests, he also took an interest in local, state and national politics, having served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and 1980.   

In 2014, he was inducted into the Statesboro High School Athletic Hall of Fame, having played football for four years, serving as co-captain during his senior year.  He was named as an outstanding running back (All State) in 1957.  He played on the Statesboro High championship football teams in 1956 and 1957.  He was captain of the Statesboro High School track team in his senior year.  He went on to play football at the University of Georgia as a running back for the Georgia Bulldogs. 

He is survived by his daughters, Julie Anne Franklin of Atlanta, Laura Tiffany Franklin Cooke (David) of Statesboro, his son, H. Lehman Franklin, III (Lorie) of Statesboro; his grandchildren, Emmaline Keaton Harmon, Mary Ava (Honey) Harmon, Avis Grace Cooke, and Lily Keaton  Cooke.  He is also survived by his brother, Robert Thomas Franklin of Statesboro, his sisters Gwen Franklin Freeman (David) of Augusta, and Peggy Franklin Colpoys (Michael) of Newnan.  He is also survived by many nieces and nephews. 

Visitation will be Monday, January 4th from 5 pm to 7 pm at Joiner Anderson Funeral Home in Statesboro.

The funeral service will be held at 2:30 pm on Tuesday, January 5th at Eastside Cemetery in Statesboro with Dr. Bill Perry officiating. 

DeWayne Grice

Herschel DeWayne Grice is the founder of Grice Connect an online news and information company in Statesboro, Georgia. DeWayne has been active in the media for over three decades. He brings a unique insight...