Sammy Franklin, 1940-2022

Mar 1, 2022


Sammy Jones Franklin, 81, of Jena, Louisiana, left this earth for glory on Jan. 28, 2022, at LaSalle General Hospital in Jena following a brief illness.

He was born on May 24, 1940, in Jigger, Louisiana, to the union of Charlie and Alice Wall Franklin.

He was the owner, publisher, and editor of The Jena Times Olla-Tullos-Urania Signal, the official journal for LaSalle Parish, for 54 years, a job that he loved as much as life itself.

His life always centered around newspapers, starting out as a paper boy as a young lad in Caldwell Parish. By the time he was enrolled at Columbia High School, he was on staff at the parish’s newspaper, The Caldwell Watchman. Upon graduation from high school in 1958, he worked full-time at the newspaper as a reporter and photographer. Over the next 10 years, he honed his craft and a dream began to ignite inside him to one day own his very own newspaper.

That dream came true on Jan. 1, 1968, when Franklin officially took over operation of two newspapers, The Jena Times and the Olla-Tullos (Louisiana) Signal. Those two papers would be combined within the first year of his ownership to: The Jena Times Olla-Tullos-Signal. During the past 54 years, he continued to improve the newspaper’s quality, from adding full color pictures to updating to modern computers, and into the most recent modern age of the digital world.

While many small town, weekly newspapers have closed or drastically reduced their sizes over the past half-century, under Franklin’s leadership, The Jena Times has continued to grow.

Franklin believed that to really have a successful newspaper, the publisher and editor must become a part of the community in which they serve. During his 54 years, he has been actively involved in many church, civic and community clubs/organizations.

He helped organize the once very popular Jena Jaycees, which held the very first Howdy Neighbor Day, and he was a member of the Jena Kiwanis Club. He was elected and served a term on the Jena Town Council, has served as chairman of various committees and boards including the LaSalle Parish Library (of which his greatest pride was the construction of the new Jena Library), LaSalle Soil and Water Conservation, LaSalle Parish Ambulance Board, and has spearheaded many other community initiatives including the first-ever Jena Nighttime Christmas Parade, the first–ever Jena High School graduation ceremonies outdoors, Jena Dixie Youth Baseball, and was instrumental in various companies and businesses deciding to locate to LaSalle Parish.

There was not one part of LaSalle Parish that was not touched, affected and changed due to his influence as publisher and editor.

He was a longtime member of Temple Baptist Church and then Midway Baptist Church in Jena and has served in various positions in those churches, including deacon, music minister and treasurer.

He was a friend to all and gave generously to many in need, always with anonymity. His life revolved around his Savior, Jesus Christ, his family, his newspaper and doing everything he could for the betterment of LaSalle Parish.

Franklin loved the old-time, four-part harmony Gospel music and at one time was part of a Gospel music group that sang in the area. He was also a big fan of George Jones and loved to play his music and sing along to family and employees of his newspaper.

Visitation was held on Jan. 31, 2022, at Midway Baptist Church in Jena. A Celebration Service was held Feb. 1, 2022, at Midway Baptist Church. Franklin was laid to rest following the service at the Woodland Cemetery in Jena under the direction of Kinner & Stevens Funeral Home of Jena.

Sammy was preceded in death by his parents; four sisters, Euna Mae Phillips, Bobbie Ruth Franklin, Linnie Nell Franklin and Katherine Ellerbe; five brothers, Bruce Franklin, Tommy Franklin, Cecil Franklin, William “Bill” Franklin and George Melvin Franklin; and two granddaughters, Lauren Franklin and Kassie Franklin.

Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Bonita Francis Franklin; two daughters, Penny Justus of Bastrop and Ashley (Dustin) Keene of Jena; four sons, Glen Franklin of Jena, Craig (Kim) Franklin of Jena, Scott Franklin (fiancée Jamie Clauss) of Jena, and Charlie (Marissa) Franklin of Alexandria; 18 grandchildren (plus one on the way) and 14 great-grandchildren.

In addition to floral arrangements, if anyone would like to make a donation in his memory, please send to Sammy’s favorite Gospel-sharing ministry: Wild Horse Ministries, 460 Appleby Road, Trout, LA, 71371.