Chattanooga civil rights leaders were recognized Thursday night by the Alton Park Development Corporation at the inaugural John P. Franklin Humanitarian Award Banquet and Roast.
The black-tie event at Stratton Hall was attended by several hundred and commemorated the 50th anniversary of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race and ended unfair voting requirements and the segregation of schools and public facilities.
John P. Franklin, who attended the banquet held in his honor, was the city's first and only black vice mayor, the first black city commissioner and the first black president of the Tennessee Board of Education.
Educator and social justice advocate Franklin McCallie was awarded the John P. Franklin Humanitarian Award for his efforts today to bring together blacks and whites and his stand against segregation in the 1960s and 1970s when the issue was being debated in Chattanooga and in his own family.
McCallie is a descendant of one of the city's most influential families, which founded the prestigious McCallie School. His father was headmaster at the school in that era, but the young McCallie refused to teach there because the school was not yet integrated. He taught instead at one of the city's all-black schools.
He went on to become the first white assistant principal at Howard School. Later he convinced his father to integrate McCallie School, and the rest of the city's prep schools followed suit.
McCallie, 74, spent most of his life in St. Louis, Mo., but returned to Chattanooga a few years ago after retiring from his education career. He and his wife have been organizing events at their home intended to improve race relations in the city.
Eleanor Woods, who organized Thursday's banquet and roast, said the Alton Park Development Corporation polled more than 1,000 people in trying to determine who should receive the inaugural Franklin award and McCallie's name stood out.
"Many felt like he deserved this honor," she said.
McCallie said he was surprised to receive the recognition, but is very thankful.
"How can I not appreciate someone honoring me with the name John P. Franklin," McCallie said after the event. "He was my mentor. He is one of my heroes."
In addition to remembering the contributions of McCallie and Franklin, longtime broadcaster Luther Massengale of WDEF was the subject of a roast. He was honored for his longtime service to the community and awarded a key to the city by a representative from Mayor Andy Berke's office.
Contact staff writer Joan Garrett McClane at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6601.