Rabil: A role model for community service

Published 2:38 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of seven articles, each highlighting one of the 2023 inductees to the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence.

The Franklin Community Wall of Excellence gained eight new names via its 2023 class.

Those names included Frank M. Rabil, Clyde Elwood Parker, David T. Lease, Carolyn and Waverly Lawrence, Travis W. Felts, Jennifer Sing and Mona M. Sumblin.

The seventh annual Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Induction Dinner and Ceremony took place Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Cypress Cove Country Club.

As noted in the event’s program, through the vision of some local Franklin City Public Schools alumni and school personnel, the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Inc. was established in 2016 as a program to honor former Franklin and Hayden high school students, administrators, teachers and staff who have excelled or distinguished themselves through personal and/or professional success, as well as to recognize those community members who have made significant contributions to the public schools in Franklin.

“The Wall” is located at Franklin High School, adjacent to the gymnasium, a Wall of Excellence news release stated. Names and photos of each inductee are displayed for generations of Franklin High School students and community members to see as they walk by on their way to class or an event at FHS.

FRANK M. RABIL

Rabil was inducted onto the Wall of Excellence in the category of Outstanding Career. 

There was some educated speculation by Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Vice President Brian Hedgepeth during the induction ceremony that Rabil might have been able to qualify for induction under the category of Outstanding Athlete as well.

The printed program for the induction dinner and ceremony indicated that Rabil attended FHS in the 1960s, lettering in football, basketball and baseball. Additionally, he held several class officer positions, serving on the annual staff and was the Rotary Club’s representative for FHS during his senior year.

After graduating in 1968, he went to Virginia Tech and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

He put that education to use soon thereafter, teaching language arts at Southampton Academy from 1973-76. During that time, he also served SA and its students by organizing and coaching the junior junior varsity basketball program, and he also coached football and baseball.

Brian Hedgepeth, who introduced Rabil at the induction ceremony, said Rabil jumped out of his comfort zone in 1976 when he was hired by the Bank of Franklin, going to work there for seven years and holding multiple positions there across that tenure.

“In 1983, he again made a major career change, going to work for Union Camp Corporation, and later International Paper, until 2009,” Hedgepeth said. “At Union Camp and IP, he worked in various roles totally unrelated to either his teaching or his banking background. In every aspect of his working career, Frank excelled in every role.”

The printed program noted that during Rabil’s extensive time with UCC, he served as the United Way Coordinator for the employee drive from 1985-89.

He served on the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way Board of Directors from 1988-92, and he has been on the Bronco Federal Credit Union board, serving as director from 1986-present, vice chair from 2012-15 and chair from 2015-19.

Further, he was heavily involved in the large and high-profile Franklin chapter of the Jaycees from 1976-86, serving in various officer positions. In 1976, he was a First-Year Jaycee for the district and a runner-up for the state.

The Franklin chapter of the American Heart Association had Rabil as a board member from 1980-83, and for Ducks Unlimited, he was Franklin chairman from 1980-81 and zone chairman in 1982.

In 1999, Union Camp was purchased by International Paper Corporation, and Rabil continued working there until retiring in 2009.

But retirement did not signal an end to his engagement in the community.

He has served on the Cypress Cove Country Club board from 1992-present, the Boys and Girls Club from 2009-16, The Village at Woods Edge board from 2009-present and he also serves on the Franklin Community Wall of Excellence Board of Directors.

In 2014, Rabil became involved in local government, serving as the Ward 6 representative on the Franklin City Council until 2016 when he ran for and was elected as the city’s mayor. He won reelection to that office twice. 

His listing of accomplishments in the induction dinner and ceremony program concluded by noting that he served as mayor until 2022 when he opted not to seek reelection.

“I could name many more other activities and talk longer,” Hedgepeth said at the ceremony, “but I promised him I’d try to be a little brief.

“Frank has been a role model for many people over the years,” he added. “He’s encouraged and trained others to be excellent community servants. At times he’s worked behind the scenes, but most of the time, he’s been directly involved, front and center. 

“I can personally say he’s had a positive impact on my life, influenced decisions I’ve made, mentoring me on various aspects of community involvement and in my career as a banker,” he said.

Rabil opened his acceptance speech by thanking Hedgepeth for the introduction and by thanking the Wall of Excellence committee for selecting him for induction.

“Congratulations to all the inductees and those that are being recognized tonight,” he said.

Before he got into his prepared remarks, he said, “I want you all to take a look in your program at all the past inductees just to recognize how humbling it is to be up here tonight with this august group. It’s unbelievable, and I think this is probably one of the most worthwhile things that we have going on in the city.”

In addition to his aforementioned fellow 2023 inductees, the past inductees from 2016-22 include Colgate W. Darden Jr., William H. Goodwin Jr., Larry B. Rose, Peggy H. Wilkins, Sheila Baxter, Charles G. Pearce, Sol Waite Rawls Sr., Earving L. Blythe, Clifford A. Cutchins, Della I. Hayden, Robert “Bob” Sandidge, Edwin Maxwell Barton, Robert L. “Bobby” Cutchins, Alvin Eugene Harris, George Lee, Westbrook J. Parker, Robert Judson Camp, Paul Douglas Camp and James L. Camp and their descendants, Donielle Babb, Earl Bynum, James Holeman, Louis P. “Packy” Jervey, Samuel B. Jones, Mark Richard, Robert E. Carter, Herman Charity, Constance “Connie” Lankford Chase, George H. “Top” Hedgepeth, Ronald Reese and J. Mitchell Sandlin.

“I’d really encourage those of you who are out there to think about the people that have influenced you, the people who have been such stalwarts in the city of Franklin and what they have done and to submit their names in nomination for this, because I think it’s really a worthwhile opportunity for us to recognize them,” Rabil said.

He reiterated how humbling it is to be honored amongst the other inductees.

“I just want to speak a little bit about the theme that you see with all of this — it’s about community and it’s about service,” he said.

He encouraged everyone to get involved and be engaged in their community.

“I was very fortunate to have parents who basically instilled upon us (that) if you’re going to be in a community, (then) be involved in the community, love your community, make it a better place, and the best way to do that is to be engaged,” he said. “Make the effort.” 

He noted that every person has individual talents that they can lend to this effort.

Resources like money can be key to making a community a better place, but Rabil highlighted the importance of giving the most precious resource anyone has — their time.

“Give your time, give your energy, give your effort, be prepared, and if you’re going to be in something, be in it — be involved with it, do the things that you’re supposed to do, be prepared,” he said. “Pick the significant things in your lives that are going to mean something to you and your family and your community.”

He explained that it is not the quantity of things that is most important but rather the quality of effort that one gives to those things.

“And I think we’re so fortunate in this little city that we have, to have the quality of life we have, to have the individuals we have, to have the opportunities we have, and we’re going to continue with those, and I just ask you all to get engaged and involved,” he said, thanking everyone for being there.