Flanders, Sr. Donald H..jpg

hassell h. franklin

Hassell H. Franklin (b.1935), chairman and CEO of Franklin Corp., launched a small, family-owned business in 1970 and built it into one of the largest, privately owned furniture manufacturers in the nation, achieving double-digit growth nearly every year since its founding. Today, Franklin employs a workforce of 1,300 that produces a diverse line of American-made upholstered motion furniture sold throughout the world.

Innovative strategic planning is a cornerstone of Mr. Franklin's success. More than 43 years ago, when he approached local banks to finance his startup company, he presented a three-year plan – and then accomplished it in just nine months. Mr. Franklin is known for his visionary use of vertical integration and lean manufacturing techniques. In the 1990s, he was among the first in the industry to convert his frame mill from a manual cut-and-sew operation to a more efficient computer numerical control-driven system. Today, the company's 75-acre campus includes a metal stamping facility, foam fabrication plant, dimension mill, recliner plant and motion sofa plant, as well as a logistics company and a fully equipped research and development department. Leadership classes are held for front-line supervisors and as a debt-free company, attention is focused on the customer experience, quality products, exceptional value and quick delivery.

An enthusiastic industry supporter, Mr. Franklin established a $1 million endowment at Mississippi State University to help build the Franklin Furniture Institute, a research and training center benefitting the furniture community. He has served as president and board member of the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn. (now the American Home Furnishings Alliance) and as a board member of the Furniture Foundation and the Mississippi Manufacturing Assn. He has received the AHFA Distinguished Service Award and Industry Service Award from the Upholstered Furniture Action Council. Mr. Franklin was elected to the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame.

Mr. Franklin grew up on a small farm and was a public school classmate of Elvis Presley in Tupelo. He served in the U.S. Army, where he commanded the company that protected James Meredith during the integration of the University of Mississippi. He was the Mississippi State Alumnus of the Year, as well as the Itawamba Community College Alumnus of the Year; is past president and board member of CREATE Foundation, the largest community foundation in Mississippi; and is a major supporter of the Boys' and Girls' Club, Regional Rehabilitation Center, United Way of Northeast Mississippi and Sanctuary Hospice House. He served as lead director of BancorpSouth, as well as on the boards of the Mississippi Economic Council, North Mississippi Health Services, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Publishing Co., Journal Publishing Houston, Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi, Community Development Foundation and Community Relations Assn. He has served on the boards of the Mississippi State University Development Foundation and its Athletic Foundation, and the Itawamba Community College Foundation.