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Detroit street renamed after Aretha Franklin’s father

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — The late Rev. C.L. Franklin, a civil rights activist and the Queen of Soul’s father, was honored Friday with a city street renamed after him.

His daughter and legendary singer, Aretha Franklin, attended the 2 p.m. ceremony celebrating the renaming of Linwood Street on the city’s west side to Rev. C.L. Franklin Boulevard.

“I want to thank you all for coming out today for supporting us in this celebration of C.L. Franklin, my father,” she said.

The event was held at the church where he served as pastor, New Bethel Baptist, on Linwood between West Grand and Chicago boulevards. Hundreds packed the church for the celebration marked by fiery sermons and gospel music.

Blue street signs with his name went up at Linwood and Vicksburg. Two others are at Linwood and Philadelphia streets, the corner where New Bethel Baptist sits.

The Queen of Soul was joined at the celebration by family, friends and special guests, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Judge Greg Mathis and former Detroit city councilwoman JoAnn Watson.

Jackson called Franklin and the New Bethel Baptist church a landmark to help future generations find their way.

“Tell your children about this landmark, this frame of reference,” he said. “Remember this landmark. Thank God the Rev. C.L. Franklin came our way.”

The Queen of Soul performed a couple of songs and played piano to honor her father, her unmistakable voice filling the church.

Franklin was a civil rights pioneer. During the second Great Migration of African-Americans to the north in the 1950s and 1960s, the Rev. Franklin helped find housing and auto factory jobs for transplanted southerners. He also fought discrimination inside auto factories.

In 1963, Franklin’s church helped organize the “Great March to Freedom” in downtown Detroit, which drew an estimated 150,000 people. The keynote speaker was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a friend of Franklin’s.

In June 1979, a burglar broke into Franklin’s Detroit home and shot him. He spent five years in a coma and died July 27, 1984.

We praise God for the legacy of Rev. Dr. C.L. Franklin,” said Watson, a minister. “There’s something special about Linwood and one of those reasons it’s special is Rev. Dr. C.L. Franklin.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058