State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, said on Friday that Franklin had spoken about his chest pains with a church friend.
When the friend, who is a nurse, suggested he visit the hospital and he refused, she said they would talk more about his condition on Sunday at Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Cumming.
“Well, he didn’t show up for church on Sunday, which certainly isn’t uncharacteristic,” Setzler said. “He was sometimes erratic. Sometimes he would go to Chalcedon, sometimes he would go to Hope Presbyterian.”
When friends tried to reach him on Monday but couldn’t, they called his friend, Pat Gartland, who serves on the Cobb Board of Elections. Gartland volunteered to drive over to check on Franklin on Tuesday. But when Gartland arrived at Franklin’s home at 4552 Cedar Knoll Drive around 11 a.m., he saw Franklin’s truck in the driveway.
“(Gartland) rang the doorbell, banged on the door, banged on the windows, went around back and looked through the glass and saw that (Franklin’s) laptop was turned on, sitting on the kitchen table, and said, ‘that didn’t look good,’” Setzler said.
Police were called and reportedly found Franklin dead in his bed, Setzler said.
“They surmised that he might have died Saturday night, but no one knows for sure,” Setzler said. “Bobby was a very private person. He had had some heart issues before.”
Cobb Police report no foul play and said the county medical examiner’s office had assumed control of the case.
Governor Deal has 10 days from Tuesday to announce the date of a special election. One possible date is Sept. 20, since that day is set in state law as the date cities and counties may hold special elections. But whatever date Deal chooses, the process will then be turned over to the Secretary of State’s office, with a period set for qualifying.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said he heard the news Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve known Bobby for 24 years,” Ehrhart said. “I’m heartbroken. I feel for his kids … they just lost their dad. Bobby wasn’t the best at making friends with everybody, but I think he had a good heart, and I hope he’s going to a better place. I know he’s going to a better place. I mean, I hurt right now.”
Ehrhart said Franklin had been divorced for some time and his three children were grown, including a son who is in the Navy and stationed in California.
“He didn’t have a lot in his life right now,” Ehrhart said. “It’s shocking. How old was he? This gives you a real perspective on how short life really is.”
Like Ehrhart, Setzler said Franklin was a friend.
“He’s a dear, dear man,” Setzler said. “His legacy will clearly be one of principled conservatism. He was fond of saying that it’s never the right time to do the wrong thing. He was committed first to his Lord Jesus and second to liberty and he really, really believed in personal liberty and the wisdom this nation was founded on.”
Franklin’s public comments often caused an uproar, like in a February interview with the MDJ, in which he opined on abortion, gays in the military, and the importance of verifying that a president is born in the U.S.
Franklin objected to President Obama’s push to allow gays to serve in the military, comparing homosexuals to drug dealers and thieves and referring to their “unrepentant criminal behavior.”
“The Bible says it’s a capital offense,” Franklin said of homosexuality.
He regularly introduced legislation that sought to define abortion as murder.
A driver’s license was a government mandate he sought to do away with in his HB 7. Franklin said since the right to travel was enshrined in the Magna Carta in England in 1215, “licensing of drivers cannot be required of free people because taking on the restrictions of a license require the surrender of an inalienable right.”
Then there was his opposition to the government’s ability to require vaccinations during a pandemic, which spurred him to introduce HB 11, the Freedom from Compulsory Pandemic Act. Franklin believed the state was in violation of the law for failing to conduct transactions in gold or silver, which is why he authored HB 3, the Constitutional Tender Act, which would require state transactions to be conducted in gold or silver.
Franklin ran into trouble on the abortion topic in 2008, when state Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) introduced a bill dealing with dog fighting. When the bill reached the floor, Franklin said he tried to amend it by adding on his anti abortion bill. Speaker Glenn Richardson refused to recognize him, but Franklin appealed his ruling, which caused him to be stripped of his chairmanship of the House Reapportionment Committee.
Franklin complained that the new speaker, David Ralston, engaged in the same habit.
“He’s doing the same thing of not recognizing motions he doesn’t agree with instead of letting the elected House of Representatives vote on whether they want the motion or not,” Franklin said.
The son of a Coca-Cola salesman, Franklin, who had three children, was born in Birmingham, Alabama to Robert and Betty Franklin, along with two older sisters. He earned a degree in Biblical Studies and Business Administration from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain and moved to Cobb in 1992, where he was self-employed as a business consultant.
He was first elected to the Georgia House in 1996 to represent the 43rd District.
Franklin said his religious beliefs took root after a cover-to-cover reading of the Bible.
“It was basically taking the Scripture, saying OK, what does it say, and reading it through cover to cover each year, getting everything in context and saying this is what needs to be done personally, this is what needs to be done in the family, this is what needs to be done in the state, and the jurisdictions don’t mix, but all of us are accountable to God.”
In his February interview with the Journal, Franklin warned that the U.S. had adopted all 10 points of The Communist Manifesto, which is why in part he introduced HR 1 to eliminate property taxes.
“The first plank of the Communist Manifesto is the abolition of private property and if you tax it you’re claiming ownership over it,” he said. “Finish paying off your mortgage and don’t pay your rent to Cobb County. You’ll find out who owns it. We’ve really adopted all 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto in one form or another in this country.”
State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) said she recalled a conversation with Franklin regarding his change of heart over Georgia’s former state flag.
“He originally was against changing the flag, but after careful thought, he decided that although the Confederate emblem was originally just a battle emblem, it had been used by organizations as a symbol of hatred down through the years and it needed to be totally removed from the Georgia flag,” Cooper said.
Therefore in 2003 Franklin helped design the current state flag. But he eventually voted against his own design because it moved “In God We Trust” to a less prominent location and made the text smaller, Cooper said.
“Bobby was a man of strong convictions,” Cooper said.
Despite his critics, Setzler said Franklin was not one to rant and rave.
“If people sat around and listened to Bobby and sat and reasoned with him to understand why he believed what he believed they might disagree, but Bobby had well defined principles — he was not unclear about what he believed, and he backed his beliefs up with a consistent belief system,” Setzler said. “People can’t say he was an ‘angry swinging radical.’ He was a very sweet man, and he was committed to dialogue but stood on principle.
House Democratic Caucus Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) issued a statement saying he will be deeply missed.
“I am saddened to learn of the death of my House colleague Bobby Franklin,” Abrams said. “I counted him among my friends and found him to be an extremely principled person. Although many of his principles differed from my own, I had the occasion to work with Bobby on several pieces of legislation and consider those times to be among the high points of my career. Bobby was never deterred from pursuing the things he believed to be right. He was willing to question authority and challenge paradigms - two things I found to be very instructive.”
Gov. Deal also spoke of Franklin’s convictions.
“I was shocked and saddened to hear of Rep. Bobby Franklin’s death,” Deal said. “Bobby served the people of Georgia as a representative from Cobb County for nearly 15 years, and he never wavered in his conviction to his principles. He staunchly defended our Second Amendment rights, and he passionately promoted the sanctity of life. The unexpected loss of a colleague at such a young age compounds the tragedy. Sandra and I extend our sincerest condolences to the Franklin family; we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said: “Bobby Franklin was a man of deep faith, strong character, and unshakable convictions. He never shied away from standing up for what he believed in and always put principles before politics. Nita and I mourn his passing and have him and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”
And U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) said: “Bobby Franklin fought as hard as anyone for the principles in which he believed. He did so with valor and diligence. Betty and I are saddened at the news of his death and extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and constituents. His presence will be missed.”
Setzler said Chalcedon Presbyterian Church is in charge of arrangements.