Frederick “Fred” Franklin is “the real deal.”
Originally from Chicago, Fred moved to Omaha to attend Creighton Law School, the beginning of a lifelong, illustrious career in law. He spent nearly 22 years as a federal prosecutor in the Nebraska U.S. Attorney’s office as the second Black attorney hired.
Peers refer to him as a trailblazer, someone who sets the tone for crucial conversations, and understands the nuances of the law in such a profound way. Along with his sharp intellect, Fred is celebrated for his humility, patience and charisma. Lisa Watkins, who worked with him for many years says, “Fred takes on tasks wholeheartedly and follows the law; and even through that process he can bring levity to tense situations in the pursuit of truth. He never speaks over someone’s head, and people respect him for that.”
Fred’s work in the community brings together his love of the law and his sense of service. He revived the Midlands Bar Association in Nebraska, an organization that focuses on encouraging collegiality among Nebraska’s African American attorneys. In addition, it also provides opportunities for its members to engage in work with local charities. Fred also founded and ran a book club for middle school boys of all races, though they were primarily African American students. It provides mentorship and a support system, and elevates content written by Black authors.
Fred’s daughter, Cydney Franklin says, “Though my father retired in 2019 from the U.S. Attorney’s office, he has never stopped working. He saw the need for legal representation to be more accessible in the Black community. He saw that people needed representation that they feel they can trust, so he has been providing service for these communities, especially in North Omaha.”
This year Inclusive Communities is awarding the Necessary Trouble Award for the very first time to honor Fred Franklin. The award draws its name from the legendary remarks of John Lewis. Inclusive Communities presents the Necessary Trouble Award to inspire others to speak truth to power. It is a recognition of the bravery required by a single individual to confront injustice and take measures to advance equity, reconciliation, and the restorative process in the community. “We recognize the bravery it takes to do the right thing, even when, and especially when it’s not the popular thing,” says Executive Director Maggie Wood. “From what we’ve learned about Fred, he has been getting into Necessary Trouble for a long time now, and that deserves to be elevated in our community.”