Today would have been Rev. C.L. Franklin’s 104th birthday. His former church in Detroit, New Bethel Baptist Church, wants to honor him and his daughter, Aretha, with a “professional” mural. A GoFundMe account was launched in the amount of $350,000 to pay for the artwork.
The elder Franklin passed away July 27, 1984 in Detroit while in a coma, stemming from gunshot injuries suffered in a June 10, 1979 botched robbery at his LaSalle Gardens home. The Queen of Soul passed away from pancreatic cancer August 16, 2018.
The GoFundMe was started by the church and said raised funds will go toward purchasing and installing a mural of the father and daughter duo. Funds will also assist in preserving the church’s history. The mural will be named after her father’s popular recorded sermon, “The Eagle Stir Her Nest.”
During Aretha Franklin’s memorial services, dozens of mural went up across Detroit in honor of her, including one just down the street from the church, on Linwood and Euclid. It was painted by graffiti artist Sintex. It is unclear if the mural is still up.
Rev. Franklin moved to Detroit in 1946 to pastor the New Bethel Church. That is where Aretha Franklin started her career at the age of 14. She recorded her first album, ‘Songs of Faith,” there. Rev. Franklin was known as a dynamic gospel preacher, singer, humanitarian, and civil rights activist. He was good friends with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was instrumental in bringing Dr. King to Detroit for the June 23, 1963 Detroit March to Freedom. More than 250,000 people participated in the march down Woodward Avenue to Cobo Hall where Dr. King first delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Aretha Franklin was of course known as the “Queen of Soul.” She was also a civil rights activist, touring the country with Dr. King and singing at his memorial service in 1968. Franklin was a member of the New Bethel Baptist Church throughout her life, even after her father’s passing, and often held free concerts there for the community. Thousands flocked to the church on the corner of Linwood and Rev. C.L. Franklin Boulevard to pay their last respects to her last summer.
New Bethel Baptist Church was organized March 6, 1932 in the home of Samuel and Mamie Varnadore at 2627 Leland Street in Detroit. Rev. V.L. Bolton was called to serve as the first pastor of New Bethel, but was only able to serve for a few months. Rev. Horatius Holypheal Coleman was called as the next pastor of New Bethel from 1932-1935. From 1935-1946, Rev. N.H. Armstrong and Rev. William E. Ramsey led the church, until Rev. Franklin arrived in 1946.
Franklin grew the church from its humble beginnings in Black Bottom to Detroit to its current location, March 10,1963. The building cost was approximately $500,000.
With Franklin in a coma, the church selected Rev. C.L. Moore to supervise and administer services. Rev. Robert Smith Jr. was selected to serve as co-pastor in 1982, eventually taking the job full-time. He has led New Bethel Baptist Church ever since.
In 24 hours, no donations have been made to the fund.