DETROIT – Soul legend Aretha Franklin performed Monday for adoring fans during a ceremony honoring her father, whose name is now on a city park near her childhood home.
The City Council passed a resolution last year changing the name of La Salle Gardens Park to C.L. Franklin Park, named after the civil rights leader from the South who moved to Detroit and converted a 2,200-seat theater into a church powerhouse.
“He became a person that, politicians always came by sooner or later to see him,” said Dr. Claud Young, a friend who spoke at the ceremony.
“He was the greatest,” Aretha Franklin, 63, said after singing a vibrant gospel-tinged classical Italian piece and accompanying herself on a grand piano set up on a stage in the park. “He really was great.”
The Rev. C.L. Franklin died in 1984 after many years as a well-known local preacher and active campaigner with civil rights groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Urban League. He embraced the then-radical Martin Luther King Jr., helping organize a march in Detroit in 1963 as a precursor to the even larger one in Washington, D.C. that year.
C.L. Franklin had more than 76 albums of sermons and music and was credited by one speaker with having “made black preaching popular.”