Today’s post celebrates the career of Michigan Man Julius Franks. Yes, this article is the fourth in a month long series on African American Wolverines who starred on the football field. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Julius Franks, Jr. was born on this date in 1922 at Macon, Georgia. Later, the Franks family moved to Michigan. Julius grew up to be an outstanding football player at Hamtramck High School. After graduation, he decided to continue his education, and his football, at The University of Michigan.
(Note-Julius Franks (#63) is shown above with the 1942 Michigan Football team. He is in the third row – second man on the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Franks starred on the Michigan Freshman team in 1940 and moved up to play on Fritz Crisler’s fourth team in 1941. Although Julius did not start any games in 1941, he did play enough on the offensive line to earn his first varsity letter. Michigan finished the season with a final record of 6-1-1 and won 3 games, lost 1 and tied 1 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines finished second in the conference for the third time in Crisler’s short tenure.
Julius Franks returned for the 1942 season and he was ready to make a bigger contribution. As it turned out, that’s exactly what he did. Julius started all ten games at right guard. He earned first team All-Conference honors and was a consensus All-American. Yes, Julius Franks became the first African-American to earn All-American honors at Michigan. The Wolverines ended the season with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses. They slipped a little in the Big Ten and finished in a tie for third with a record of 3 wins and 2 losses.
One interesting fact about Julius Franks was that he played on an outstanding offensive line that earned the nickname “The Seven Oak Posts.” Yes, these guys were good, very, very good. In addition to Franks, the following men played on this famous unit: Robert Kolesar (left guard), Elmer Madar (end), Bill Pritula (right tackle), Merv Pregulman (center), Phil Sharpe (end), and Albert Wistert (left tackle).
Julius Franks did not return to Michigan for his senior season in 1943. Unfortunately, he spent twenty-five months in the hospital battling Tuberculosis. The good news is that he won the battle and returned to Michigan to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in 1947. He went on to graduate from Michigan’s Dental School. Dr. Franks practiced dentistry in Grand Rapids, Michigan for forty-years and became a strong advocate for civil rights and equal housing opportunities.
So, today is a great day to appreciate the contributions of Dr. Julius Franks to Michigan Football History. He only played for two seasons, but his impact is still felt after all these years. Julius Franks lived a long, and fruitful life. He passed away on November 26, 2008 at the age of eighty-six. May Dr. Julius Franks continue to rest in eternal peace! Go Blue!
For more information on this outstanding Wolverine player and “Michigan Man” check out the following links:
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