On Thursday, Sept. 7, the Harris Health System will rename one of its buildings the Elvin Franklin Jr. Administration Building in honor of its longtime volunteer extraordinaire. The ceremony will take place in the Smith Clinic Lobby (2525-A Holly Hall) at 6 p.m.
Franklin, a retired insurance agency owner, has served as chair of the Board of Managers during three terms and currently serves as vice chairman of the Harris County Hospital District Foundation Board.
Though appreciative of the renaming gesture, Franklin said his 30 years of service to HHS was not given seeking accolades.
“I’m honored, but my mission has always been to reflect my mother’s words: ‘It’s better to give than to receive,’ ” said Franklin, who came to work with HHS at the behest of a friend.
“After I had served three years on the North Forest ISD board, I felt I was in the wrong place to give back fully and chose not to seek re-election. The honorable El Franco Lee asked if I would serve on a committee, and gave me three choices: insurance, the Port of Houston and health services.”
Franklin chose HHS, a choice greatly influenced by a childhood healthcare experience of his own. An accident at school as a sixth grader in his native Louisiana sent Franklin and his mother 70 miles by train to the nearest hospital. Once there, it was 10 hours before Franklin saw a doctor.
“They kept putting us back, the closer we got to the front of the line. I asked a nurse why, and she replied, ‘White patients have to be treated first before we get to the coloreds.’ That day, I promised my mother if I was ever in a position to help others avoid that same experience, I would.”
Franklin kept his word, making such an impact that many people assume HHS is his employer, though he has never received a salary. He found the city’s first AIDS clinic, expanded neighborhood health clinics from five to 19, and along with Alicia Reyes created the School Base Program that tackled the problem of children lacking vaccinations by providing services in area schools. His most memorable experience is one accumulated over time.
“To see how the hospital system’s budget, with the aid of Commissioners Court, grew from $150 million in 1986 to $1.3 billion today; and to see the extension of the services we’ve been able to provide, that’s memorable,” he said.
Upon retiring after 38 years in the insurance business, Franklin stayed busy with HHS, the Rotary Club and the Northeast Chamber. He’s currently chairman of the Redevelopment Authority of Greenspoint, builders of the largest skateboard park in North America, and future builders of building a BMX bike track that will host the BMX World Championship in 2020.
“We just want to create a safe environment for the people of Greenspoint,” he said.