Oral History Project:
Autobiographical Stories of Women From Chandler as Told to CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
Oral History of Ruth A. Payne Franklin  
Written by: John Schreimann and Aubrey Negrette

Ruth A. Payne Franklin Interviewed by John Schreimann and Aubrey Negrette On October 13, 2004

Ruth A. Payne Franklin was born in Texas in 1928. Her husband is Carthel E. Franklin.They have a total of ten children, and those children were good enough to rear a quite generous 25 grandchildren. These somewhat less busy grandchildren managed to produce 25 great grandchildren between them. Franklin herself has just six brothers and two sisters. One of her brothers is Coy Payne, the first black mayor of Chandler and the first black mayor in Arizona.

Moving from Texas in 1942, Franklin attended Goodyear for the seventh and eighth grades in the Ocotillo area. After graduating elementary school at Goodyear, she was bussed from her home over to the segregated George Washington Carver High School in Phoenix. Her parents were enthusiastic about Franklin getting an education. As was common at the time, picking cotton, potatoes, and corn seemed like the only other choice she had. Carver High School later became quite legendary in its own right as an historical building. Carver High closed in 1954 as did many other high schools in the country for blacks when segregation ended. She graduated Carver in 1948.

Leisure time in Chandler at the time was quite interesting. The family-like environment and a strong support system among blacks at school and after school meant a lot of activities were done together. Many of Franklin's favorite activities revolved around her faith and Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Weenie roasts and picnics at Blue Port Lake were another favorite recreational activity of hers. Her father was also friends with the Native Americans who themselves held Indian Reservation Rodeos that Franklin and her family often attended. Besides this, her favorite activities included mountain climbing, skating, riding bikes, fishing, and sewing. Movie theaters at the time were, of course, segregated, but Franklin didn't mind. She would spend her last dime to go to the movies with her friends, after buying clothes for Church. In the theaters, they were punished like children for "acting up" at the theaters by the white employees.

After graduating from Carver High School, she went on to Arizona State University for only one semester. She did not feel as though she belonged because of Professors telling her she wasn't good enough. She and her husband also had young children who needed care. With time the family moved to California. After the children had grown old enough, however, she was back in the loop starting at Los Angeles Trade Tech for night courses. From there she took a total of 60 credit hours at East Los Angeles City College. At Cal State University she earned a total of 40 credit hours in various liberal sciences. At Cal State University she also worked as a teacher's aid working towards her early child education certificate. After this she went off to Pacific Oaks in Pasadena and then on to UCLA where she graduated and finally earned her certification to teach.

Franklin's list of accomplishments is long but never straying far from her primary joy in life in early childhood education. In 1965, she had a hand in starting the first Head Start program in California. When she moved back to Chandler in 1983, she worked in the Child Development program at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. She currently teaches art to young students at Parks and Recreations in Chandler as well. Apart from this, she works as a free-lance teacher in the Chandler area for students between 4 and 5 years of age. She is also a chairwoman on the Monarch's Historical Committee which had her old high school, George Washington Carver High School, turned into an historical museum to remember the days of segregation in the city.

She would like the importance of Carver High School becoming an historical building to be better known. She helped preserve it with many others in her Monarch Historical Committee. She would also like to mention that blacks have been in the Phoenix area all the way back to the 1930's and 40's and played an outstanding part in the history of Phoenix and Chandler. Her brother Coy Payne is also a rather famous figure. He was, and to this day is, the only black mayor to ever serve in the state of Arizona.

Photos courtesy of the family.

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