Houston--Hassell Henry Franklin, chairman and CEO of Franklin Corporation in Houston, died peacefully at Sanctuary Hospice House in Tupelo on January 22, 2023. Not only was he a leader in the furniture industry, he also was involved in the economic development in Northeast Mississippi and was a lifelong supporter of higher education.
Hassell was the son of Robert Walter Franklin and Dollie Ellen Gean Franklin. Born in Lee County on May 14, 1935, he was the youngest of six siblings. He worked in the fields on the family farm and sold their watermelons at a roadside stand. He learned that if he marked the price up a little, he could make a higher profit. Later Hassell credited his watermelon experience as the beginning of his business career. He attended public schools in Tupelo where he was a classmate of Elvis Presley and was infamously reprimanded by his teacher for throwing Elvis’s guitar pick into the shrubs.
Franklin served in the Mississippi National Guard and the United States Army, where he commanded the company that protected James Meredith during the 1962 integration of the University of Mississippi. He retired from his military service with the rank of Captain.
After attending Itawamba Community College, Hassell enrolled in Mississippi State University, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Management in 1959. Franklin later was named his Alma Mater’s 1993 Alumnus of the Year. He served on multiple boards for Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Development Foundation and the Athletic Foundation. The Franklin Furniture Institute, a research and training center benefitting the furniture industry, was named in his honor. In 2021, Hassell received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree for lifetime achievements and for his longtime support of Mississippi State University programs.
In February of 1970, Hassell Franklin founded Franklin Corporation and built it into one of the largest, privately owned furniture manufacturers in the nation. From the early days of being exclusively a recliner producer, the company now manufactures stationary and motion upholstery, recliners, and lift chairs. It has grown from a 12,000 square foot building to a 115-acre campus that employs almost 900 people. Hassell always said that his company would have never been successful if it hadn’t been for the people he was lucky enough to work with.
Hassell’s passion for the improvement of the furniture industry kept him involved at both the state and national level. He served on numerous boards and was president of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. For his tireless efforts, he was inducted into the 2003 Mississippi Business Hall of Fame. Franklin was recognized internationally with the 2004 Tozzoli International Leadership Award.
Beyond business, Franklin amassed a long record of public service. He was lead director of BancorpSouth (now Cadence Bank) and was past president and board member of the CREATE Foundation. Other boards he served include the Chickasaw Development Foundation, Mississippi Economic Council, North Mississippi Health Services, and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Publishing Company. In 2019, Hassell was honored by Tupelo’s Regional Rehabilitation Center with the Red Raspberry Humanitarian Award. His good friend, Mickey Holliman, once said, “His legacy is giving back.”
Hassell was a member of the South Jackson Street Church of Christ in Houston. Whether teaching a class, leading a building expansion, or helping a fellow member, his church was always his priority. He greatly supported church colleges, especially Freed-Hardeman College and Heritage Christian University.
Hassell is survived by his children Hank Franklin (Michele) of Houston, Mississippi, Mark Franklin (Mary Beth) of Starkville, Mississippi, and Laurie Franklin of Birmingham, Alabama; as well as his grandchildren Camon Franklin, Rob Franklin (Rachael), Baxter Price, Trey Franklin, and Ollie Franklin; and his great grandchildren Henry Franklin and Isabel Franklin. He is also servived by his sister, Virginia Miller, Tupelo, Mississippi, and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his father Robert Franklin, his mother Dollie Franklin, a brother Herschel Franklin, and his sisters Dot Causey, Geraldine Monoghan, and Hazel Street.
The family would like to thank his dedicated caregivers and the many others who have been so supportive during this time.
Visitation will be 11 a.m. until 12:45 p.m. Friday, January 27, 2023, at Gloster Street Church of Christ.
Services honoring his life will be 1 p.m. Friday, January 27, 2023, at Gloster Street Church of Christ, 307 North Gloster Street, Tupelo, Mississippi. Private graveside services will follow. Pegues Funeral Directors have been entrusted with arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Sanctuary Hospice House, 5159 West Main Street, Tupelo, Mississippi 38803; Regional Rehabilitation Center, 615 Pegram Drive, Tupelo, Mississippi 38801; the Hassell Franklin Presidential Endowed Scholarship, MSU Foundation, P.O. Box 6149, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762; or to a charity of your choice.
Expressions of sympathy and fond memories may be shared at