Chester Arthur Franklin

Chester Arthur Franklin founded The Call newspaper in May 1919. It was owned and operated by him until his death on May 7, 1955.

Born on June 7, 1880, Chester Franklin was the only child of George F. Franklin, a barber, and Clara Belle Williams Franklin, a teacher. He was born at the time when African Americans were moving out of Texas in search of better educational opportunities for their children.

Young Chester finished high school in Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska for two years. He was forced to leave the university when his father became ill. In an effort to help the elder Mr. Franklin regain his health, the family moved to Denver in 1898 where they bought the Colorado Statesman, later renaming it The Star because it was shorter and easier for the average man on the street to pronounce. At age 17, Franklin took over his father's business and found himself at once editor, printer, and distributor. In 1901, the father died and the team of son and mother began, never to be dissolved until her death in December 1945. The younger Franklin continued to publish The Star in Denver until 1913 when he decided to move to Kansas City where a larger African American population offered more opportunity for a newspaper to grow.

The young Kansas City Call had many obstacles to overcome during its first years. When Franklin set up his first typesetting machine, there was no one to run it. The local printers union forbade experienced men to give him aid. Somehow, though, he and his printer helper learned to operate the linotype machine without outside aid and the paper grew.

"Mother" Franklin, as the editor's mother was called, worked side by side with her son in building the newspaper. She went from door to door in the evenings selling subscriptions to The Call.

C. A. Franklin believed in giving young people a chance to develop. He took them on "green" and trained them to be good newspaper men and women, good printers, salesmen, and clerks.

In 1925 Mr. Franklin cast aside his printer's apron and journeyed to Philadelphia, where he was married to Miss Ada Crogman, one of the three daughters of the late Dr. and Mrs. William H. Crogman. For many years, Dr. Crogman was president of Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Together, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin and Mother Franklin labored side by side, building one of the finest institutions in this section of the country. Mr. Franklin attributed much of his success to the two women in his life, his mother and his wife.

When Mr. Franklin first came to Kansas City he immediately began to take an interest in and participate in civic and community affairs. He was active in the campaign to raise money to build the Paseo YMCA building. He was a former member of the branch's committee of management. He also was active in the effort to establish the Wheatley-Provident Hospital, serving as chairman of the board of directors at the time the hospital was incorporated.


Courtesy of the Black Archives of Mid-America

Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict,1855-1865.
The Pendergast Years, Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.
KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library.