Hail to the Chief
The last I heard, he was still alive—only retiring—but I’m going to say it anyway: Very few people in my life have been a bigger influence on me than Larry Brock Franklin.
Exhibit A is that sentence right there. That just looks complicated. I’m not sure I’d be able to navigate that kind of complex sentence structure without matriculating on the Clinton campus of Larry’s School of Newspapering.
Sixteen years ago, he gave me a job as a staff writer at The Chronicle. I was 25 and new to South Carolina. Up to that point, I had bounced around a few fun jobs, none of which seemed very worthy of commitment. I had worked for a cool celebrity photographer in New York City, at a small daily newspaper in Indiana, and at a publishing company in my college town. Nothing really stuck until I came to Clinton.
I ended up spending five years at The Chronicle, working alongside some great people, including my co-conspirator Jennifer Brown and colleagues like Jessica Lazenby, Brian Grossman and Keiana Page.
Together, we saw the paper through its transition into the digital age. No more hot waxing the stories or developing film. Still, it was a great honor to be a small part of The Chronicle’s long history. Just to have my name printed in the same box as Publisher Emeritus Donny Wilder was the best thing ever.
The hours were long and the pay was far from lucrative, but I stayed because I loved the job and I loved working for Larry.
Great bosses lead by example and Larry always did. When the boss is working hard and staying late every week to publish the paper, you do, too.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn that the key to work happiness is to always be learning and growing. My time at The Chronicle taught me more about writing and life than four years of college or any other experience. I credit Larry for that.
I have so many strange and precious memories from The Chronicle: Riding shotgun with Lt. Governor Andre Bauer down Hwy. 72 a week after he was busted for reckless driving in Columbia, proposing to my wife on the opinion pages, and awkwardly photographing Sen. Lindsey Graham trying on belts at Adair’s Men’s Shop, to name a few.
But some of the best moments were just hanging out with Larry.
On football season Fridays, we’d hear the click of the office intercom system switching on followed by Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” which is German for “That 2001 Gamecock Song.” This would continue sporadically throughout the day and it would be hilarious every dang time.
I don’t know why, but for a while Larry and I delivered fresh Chronicles around Presbyterian College every Wednesday morning. We’d load the back of his truck with bundles of papers, grab our coffee and head out on our route, shooting the breeze and delivering the results of that week’s work. There was nothing better.
The birth of my first child was the reason I finally had to say goodbye to the paper in 2006. I knew I just could not be the kind of father I wanted to be and work newspaper hours. Somehow, Larry managed to do it, and I admire him for it.
Although, I’m sure the credit for raising two great kids should go mostly to Janice, who is the meanest woman you’ve ever met.
Love you, Janice.
For the last eight years, I’ve worked for a do-gooder nonprofit in Greenville County. A couple of years ago we had a staff meeting where someone asked us to share examples of mentors or people who’ve influenced us. It’s a very nonprofit-y thing to do and not something I would typically volunteer for.
But without much thinking, I raised my hand and started talking about Larry and the infamous series of columns he wrote thoughtfully detailing why George W. Bush would go down as the worst president in U.S. history... up until that point, course.
I told my coworkers how this act of journalism upset a lot of people in Clinton—readers, advertisers and even Larry’s friends. He knew what was coming, but he was willing to deal with any angry or awkward encounters he might experience on Main Street or at Sunday School, because the truth is just that important. It’s a lesson I try to abide by in my life and one I hope to pass on to my kids, Sofia and Oscar.
I kind of got choked up telling this story in front of my colleagues and that was really embarrassing. I thought, “I’m never telling Larry about this.” But I guess sometimes you’ve just got to tell it like it is.
Thank you, Chief, for all you’ve taught me and your readers over the years. I feel like the City of Clinton should throw a parade in your honor. Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.