City, county parting ways

Published 10:06 am Friday, September 9, 2011

by Clyde Parker

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local history buff Clyde Parker. The series commemorates the 50th anniversary of Franklin becoming an independent city.

Sept. 7, 1961


The Town of Franklin has announced its intention to become a city, perhaps before the end of the year.

Franklin Mayor Darden Jones read a statement of intent at a joint meeting of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors, the County School Board and the Franklin Town Council at the Courthouse in Courtland on Tuesday.

He requested that the Southampton County Board of Supervisors appoint a committee to work with a committee from Franklin in reaching a settlement “fair to both parties.”

“With the growth of the Town of Franklin to the level that is provided for the transition from a town to a city, it has been natural that responsibilities have arisen — responsibilities involving the education of our children, the welfare needs of the community and other areas of municipal government,”  Jones said. “Concerns have developed to such an extent that we feel they can best be met by this community as a separate and distinct political subdivision.”

John M. Camp, chairman of the board of supervisors, said the school board and supervisors met immediately after the joint session and decided to take no action until competent legal counsel has been named.

“The need for slum clearance and better schools are two of the reasons Franklin decided to become a city,” Camp said. “I hope everyone will stay calm, cool and collected during the negotiations.”

Attorney J. Edward Moyler of Franklin, Town Attorney J. Edward Moyler Jr. of Franklin and Walter Rogers of Richmond are representing Franklin.

Franklin’s move toward city status has been under consideration since November, when the Town Council received several letters from civic clubs suggesting the move.

City status would mean that Franklin would take control of its own school system, school board, public health, welfare board and other administrative bodies. As a city, Franklin would pay no county taxes and would have its own elected officials such as commissioner of the revenue and treasurer.

A population of 5,000 or more is required before a town can become a second-class city. Jurisdictions with populations of at least 10,000 can become a first-class city. Franklin’s 1960 population was 7,264.

Many things must be negotiated between the town and county, including ownership of school buildings, school debt and pupil attendance. Mayor Jones said the town is willing to accommodate those children living outside the town limits whose parents want them to continue attending Franklin schools.


As headlined and reported on the front page of today’s Tidewater News, the Town of Franklin has moved officially toward becoming a second-class city.

The move was expected. The first reaction of some people may be that the move may create differences and ill will between the county and the town. The end result, we think, could be exactly the opposite.

First of all, the town seems to have made a fair offer. The town’s willingness to negotiate on paying a share of the school debt for the entire county is an example.

The result of city status is that Franklin will have the responsibility of taking care of its needs, such as schools, and will also bear the responsibility of raising the money to meet those needs. This the town can do the town council feels without raising tax rates. Money now paid in county taxes would, in the future, go to the city.

The one dark spot in the picture for the county is that the county may miss the one-third or so of county revenue now coming from Franklin. Much of this, of course, has been returned to the town in various ways, such as in school buildings.

Some of the thorns in town-county relations in past years have arisen from the fact that decisions involving Franklin had to come through the county. By the same token, Franklin had sometimes taken differing stands on decisions involving the county.

When Franklin becomes a second-class city, this situation will be a thing of the past. The county will have exclusive control of its activities. The town will have the same control over its activities.

The result could well be a situation where there are fewer causes for friction and a deeper need for cooperation.

Everyone involved hopes that this sign of growth by the Town of Franklin will result in closer teamwork and better understanding between the county and town, not the opposite.

CLYDE PARKER is a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. He can be reached at 757-647-8212 or