Auburn University’s first African American student, preserved at special dedication ceremony


Harold A. Franklin, 31-year-old insurance salesman, begins the registration process to become the first Black student at Auburn University, Auburn, Ala., Jan. 4, 1964. At right is Dean W.V. Parker of the graduate school. (AP Photo)

AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – The legacy of Auburn University’s first African American student will continue on forever after the university unveiled a desegregation marker expanse to commemorate his courageous efforts to desegregate the land-grant institution.

The marker is located where Harold A. Franklin first registered for classes. The hardscape and landscape of the surrounding area has been expanded and a bronze plaque is featured in the brick courtyard.

Franklin first integrated Auburn Jan. 4, 1964. He passed at 88 on Sept. 9, 2021. During his life, Franklin went on to be an educator in higher education for 27 years. He enrolled as a graduate student at Auburn University, he received his degree from the University of Denver then went on to teach at the following schools:

  • Alabama State University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Tuskegee institute
  • Talladega College

Franklin retired in 1992, and officially graduated from Auburn on Dec. 12, 2021 after defending his thesis in the Department of History at Auburn finally Feb. 19, 2020. In 2001, Franklin was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts. Since a scholarship has been named after Franklin and the Harold A. Franklin Society was started on campus in his honor.

Harold Franklin Jr. shared a statement on behalf of his father in a news release on the memorial.

“There’s nothing more we can say as a family except thank you for all you’ve done. So, I’d like to thank all of you not from the bottom of my heart, but from my entire heart.”

Auburn President Jay Gogue also shared a statement in a news release recalling the importance of Franklin’s enrollment at the University.

“It is an honor to recognize Dr. Franklin with this courtyard, as he was a pioneer who paved the way for other African American students to attend Auburn University. Auburn is a better institution because of Dr. Franklin’s bravery 57 years ago, and his spirit of internal fortitude will continue to inspire us.”

The new plaque placed where he enrolled 57 years ago states the following in part:

“Harold A. Franklin,” “1964,” and “Dr. Franklin’s bold journey is the epitome of a spirit that is not afraid. His story continues to move our hearts, stimulate our minds and inspire our lives. The same spirit dwells within, reminding us that truth will always prevail.”

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