WHEN MARTIN Luther King Jr. led civil-rights marchers through Alabama's Jim Crow country, Jack T. Franklin was there.
When King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, Jack T. Franklin was there.
When Cecil B. Moore stormed the walls of Girard College to open the school to black students, Jack T. Franklin was there.
And when entertainers like Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and countless others arrived to perform in Philly, Jack T. Franklin was there.
There wasn't much going on in Philadelphia that affected African-Americans over the past 50 years that Jack T. Franklin didn't record with his camera.
The African American Museum has more than 500,000 of his negatives, and that, it is believed, is merely the tip of the iceberg of Jack's amazing career.
Jack Theodore Franklin died Sunday at age 87.
Although described by family and friends as a man who shunned fame and fortune to pursue his passion for making a record of the black experience, his photos were shown widely in various venues, most particularly at the African American Museum, but also at the Smithsonian Institution.
"It was my mother who had to hound him to get the photos to the people who wanted to buy them because it seemed to me he just wanted to go bear witness to the next thing," his niece Joyce Owens wrote in an online profile. Her late mother, Eloise Owens Strothers, an opera singer, gave Jack his first camera when he was 11.
"He took photographs because he truly loved being there."
Much of Jack's work appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune, but he also sold to the Daily News, the Inquirer and the old Evening Bulletin, as well as to Jet, Ebony, the Pittsburgh Courier and others.
Sonny Driver, publisher of Scoop USA, the local entertainment weekly, takes some credit for Jack's success. It was back in the '60s that Driver began to use Jack's photos of the black entertainment scene.
Other publications saw his pictures and began calling him. It was Driver who said he believes the half-million negatives at the African American Museum are only a part of Jack's total.
"The ones in the museum are mostly of civil-rights history," Driver said. "The ones I have are of the history of entertainment.
"He was a comical son-of-a-gun," Driver said. "He would have you in tears laughing. If you weren't feeling well, being with Jack was enough to cheer you up. He would say something you would never forget."
Jack Franklin was born in Philadelphia to Frank Franklin and the former Florence Collier. He graduated from Simon Gratz High School and became a photographer and darkroom technician for the Merlin Studios in Philadelphia.
When World War II broke out, Jack joined the Army and became a photographer for the 1862nd Aviation Engineers in the South Pacific. He later studied photography at the Army Signal Corps Photographic Center in Astoria, N.Y.
After the war, he returned briefly to Merlin Studios, but soon launched his freelance career.
"Jack always had a camera with him," his niece wrote. "He smelled like the chemicals he used to develop his film."
Among his early subjects was his sister, Eloise. He photographed her many appearances as a singer, including the time she appeared on the same bill with Marian Anderson. Of her uncle, Joyce Owens wrote that he "proved to me that loving what you do and doing it for love is the best thing any of us can ever do."
He is survived by his wife, Jessie Reed Franklin; two daughters, Anita Michelle Franklin and Geraldine Warren, and a son, Jack Savage.