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Don Franklin, 62, business leader and community visionary, passes away

"I'll dream with you," Don Franklin told Columbia's mayor; and he
backed that statement with hard work and dedication to God and family

The loss of Don Franklin will be immeasurable for Adair and surrounding counties. His pragmatism, business acumen, and work ethic made his family a major force in the economic fortunes of South Central Kentucky.

An automobile dealer in Columbia for over 40 years, he owned Don Franklin Ford-Mercury, Franklin Nissan, and Frankliin Chevrolet, Pontiac, GMC in Russell Springs, KY.

A driving ambition took him from the little boy who slept on a booth in the G & M Grill while his mother finished work in the kitchen there in the 1950s, to being a top automobile dealer and a dominant player in insurance, finance, and real estate. With his wife Barbara he raised sons Eddie and Dan, who have followed in their father's footsteps. With their wives and five sons between them, Don Franklin's dreams will live on.

His career journey began as a mechanic for Louis Merkley and Morris Epperson when they owned the Adair Motors Ford dealership. He went on to start his own business, Don's Auto Sales, in the mid-1960s, selling used cars. His wife, Barbara, joined him in management as they grew their business and their family.

In 1982, the Franklins purchased the Ford dealership, employing six people, with an average inventory of 35 cars. Today, the family employs 50 people and is managed by Don, Eddie, and Dan along with their wives, Barbara, Lillie, and Melinda Franklin.

He played a major role establishing Holladay Place, UCB

Don Franklin played a major role in two of the biggest recent achievements in business and finance in Adair County. He and partners Richard Walker and Marshall Loy were able to bring about the reality of Holladay Place, the mega-retail center which includes the Super Wal-Mart to be opened in a few months. "Don was very instrumental in Holladay Place," Columbia attorney Marshall Loy said, "and in the success we've had thus far getting the center for the people of Adair County."

Mr. Franklin also played a key role in the establishment of United Citizens Bank of Southern Kentucky, one of the region's fastest growing financial institutions.

Hard work remains the key element of Don Franklin's achievement. "That was the difference," a one-time neighbor noted. "He and his family left the house before dawn every morning. They didn't come back until after dark, and soon after," he said, "the lights were out. They are hard workers."

'I'll dream with you'

Don Franklin will always be remembered as a progressive who looked ahead. He had a quiet, sincere way about him. Mayor Pat Bell remembers when, early in his administration, he told Franklin of some of the dreams he had for Columbia. "'I'll dream with you,'" the Mayor said Franklin told him.

Mayor Bell said he knew that those four words were as valuable a promise for his own hopes for progress as would have been written from any governor or president.

Whatever was needed, a major gift to Lindsey Wilson College, or to his church, or help for school children, Don Franklin was there. Charities knew they could count on him. A Relay for Life Team leader said, "When we needed a $500 check to reach our team's goal, Don Franklin was there. Every year."

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, remember individual kindnesses, and more: A faith Mr. Franklin had in others. He believed in the redemptive nature of humankind, both for those who had had financial struggles as well as for those who needed spiritual salvation.

His devotion to his churches of Christ and his personal evangelism was prodigious. He was a mainstay in the dramatic growth of one church of Christ congregation and was in on the establishment of two others. He always rated his priorities with his concern for the spiritual highest: For him, it was God, then family, then business and civic obligations. At the time of his death he was a member of the Church of Christ of Adair County.

Improving property was a leisure time activity for him. Memories of Don Franklin, alone, or with a grandson, operating a lawnmower or one of the pieces of earthmoving equipment he loved, are enduring. His last work included preparing the hillside where he will rest, overlooking his beloved family, home and business.

Perhaps the best measure of a man can be discovered in the eyes of his grandchildren, innocent observers, recipients of love and devotion, little reflectors. Don Franklin was at his best when he was in the spotlight of those he and Barbara called, "our future", their five grandsons: Don Jr., Eddie Jr, Ben, Daniel and Nathaniel. As they live and grow and speak of their Papa, it will be clear what kind of man Don Franklin was.

Click here for reflections on his life from his funeral service

Written by Linda Marcum Waggener


Don Franklin, age 62 years, of 576 Hudson Street, Columbia, KY, passed away Saturday, June 7, 2008, at 3:00pmCT, at his home, after several months illness.

He was born February 16, 1946, the son of the late Dempsey and Lula Neat Franklin of Adair County, KY.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Sneed Franklin of Columbia, and the following:
  • Two sons: Eddie D. Franklin and wife Lillie, and Dan Franklin and wife Melinda, Columbia, KY

  • Four brothers: Herbert Franklin, Edmonton, KY; Harlon Franklin, Columbia, KY; Howard Franklin, Arlington, VA; and Chester Franklin, Columbia, KY

  • One sister: Rosie Bearden, Columbia, KY

  • Five grandsons: Don Franklin, Jr.; Eddie Franklin, Jr.; Ben D. Franklin, Daniel Franklin, and Nathaniel Franklin, all of Columbia, KY.

  • And a host of other family and friends
He was preceded in death by one brother, Wallace Franklin.

The funeral service will be Wednesday, June 11, 2008, at 10:00amCT, at Don Franklin Ford on Greensburg Road in Columbia, KY with Minister Jay Street and Minister Kenneth Wilson the officiating clergy.Interment will be in Franklin Cemetery on Greensburg Road, Columbia, KY. All visiting will be at the Don Franklin Ford dealershp on Greensburg Road (Hudson Street) in Columbia. Times of visitation will be:
  • Monday evening, June 9, 2008, after 6:00pmCT
  • All day Tuesday, June 10, 2008, starting in the morning at 6:00amCT.
  • And Wednesday morning, June 11, 2008, from 6:00amCT until the time of the funeral.
Stotts-Phelps-McQueary Funeral Home, 210 Greensburg ST, Columbia, KY, is in charge of funeral arrangements.
Editorial input on this obituary is welcome for consideration by Photos, changes, list of casketbearers, and other additions are welcome. Current policy is to also post cards of thanks free of charge. Contact using Contact/Submit button

This story was posted on 2008-06-08 16:56:34
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Grissom-Martin Funeral Home
Located one block off the Square at 200 Campbellsville Street in Columbia, KY.
To reach David and Cathy Martin, phone (270)-384-2149, or e-mail:
Large enough to serve comfortably; Small enough to serve personally.

G & G Monuments
Todd and Mandi Green and Jared Conover
1670 Liberty Road, Columbia, KY. email:, 270-634-0359
First Quality Marble and Granite

Stotts-Phelps-McQueary Funeral Home
Established 1922 | 210 Greensburg St., Columbia, KY 42728 | Jeff Jessie, Owner
270-384-2145,, email

Remembering Don Franklin: 1946-2008

2008-06-08 - Photo Franklin family portrait.
Our community is in mourning with the passing of visionary business leader whose life story was an inspiration to all who knew him. Don Franklin will long be remembered for the remarkable business empire he built, for his devotion to God, family, and community, for his philantrophy, for the impact he had on this community and for his many acts of singular generosity and assistance. He passed away at home, with his family around him, at 3:00pmCT, Saturday, June 7, 2008. Visitation will be after 6:00pm, Monday, June 9, 2008, and after 6:00amCT, all day Tuesday, June 10, and again starting at 6:00am Wednesday, June 11, 2008, at Don Franklin Ford. The funeral will be Wednesday, June 11, 2008, at 10:00amCT, with burial to follow at Franklin Cemetery. Obituary will follow. Stotts-Phelps-McQueary Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements

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Remembering Don Franklin: A visionary leader

2008-06-08 - City Hall, 116 Campbellsville ST, Columbia, KY - Photo By Ed Waggener.
Photo and cutline below is from late February, 2007, taken at a Planning and Zoning Meeting
Don Franklin a visionary Columbia businessman who has been instrumental in the new Holladay Place Development as well as that of many other projects in Adair County, watched the Site, Inc., presentation of final site plans with approval. Mayor Pat Bell remembers when he told Franklin of some of the dreams he had for Columbia. "'I'll dream with you,'" the Mayor said Franklin told him. The Wal-Mart Super Center represents the realization of the dream they and other Adair County leaders are bringing into being, with a little bit of help from Bentonville.

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Remembering Don Franklin: Franklin Cemetery

2008-06-09 - Hudson ST (Road to Greensburg), Columbia, KY - Photo By Linda Waggener.
FRANKLIN CEMETERYacross the road from the Franklin residence and Franklin Ford, and on top of the hill in the foreground, will be the final resting place of the founder of the Franklin Automotive Group. Don Franklin died here at his home on Saturday, June 7, 2008, at 3pmCT. Visitation will start this evening at 6:00pmCT at Franklin Ford.

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