Arkansas relatives referred to him as “Mr. Amarillo”, such was his affection for the adopted hometown.
Raymond (Ray) M. Franks, 91, arrived in Amarillo April 15, 1951, courtesy of the Air Force. He never left until the Lord took him home October 1, 2020.
Memorial service will be at 11:00 a.m., Monday, October 5, 2020 at Paramount Baptist Church. Private family graveside services will be in Llano Cemetery. Arrangements are by Schooler Funeral Home.
“You don’t leave the Promised Land once you’ve found it,” he often related. He was especially enamored of Amarillo’s friendly salt-of-the-earth people, big skies, flirtatious weather and genuine “Old West” culture.
A writer, editor, publisher, teacher and entrepreneur, he was born January 15, 1929 in North Platte, Nebraska, where his father was a telegrapher for Union Pacific Railroad. However, the Big Depression took its toll, ultimately the senior Franks his job and early divorce. From the time he was a toddler, Ray was reared by his maternal grandparents on a share-cropper farm in the bottoms of southern Illinois.
Attending a one-room country school, he completed eight grades in six years. He finished Crossville High School at age 15 and University of Evansville at 19. In college, he worked full-time as a sportswriter for the Evansville Press and edited the school paper. When the Korean War started in 1950, he joined the Air Force. After short stints at Lackland and Sheppard Air Bases, he was sent to Amarillo Air Force Base. One of the 50 airmen to help reactivate the Panhandle installation, Franks worked in the Office of Public Information. Editing the base paper, the “Jet Journal”, was his major assignment until his retirement in 1954. In 1953, he married an Amarillo girl, Floy Webb, and they were together until her death in 2008.
After his discharge from the Air Force, Franks spent 8 ½ years as Director of Sports Publicity and Instructor in Journalism at West Texas State University. His entrepreneurial juices flowing, he built an office building in Southwest Amarillo and entered the publishing business full-time in 1963.
While in the military, he used his spare time to start an area football magazine, “Panhandle Pigskin Preview.” Working late night hours, he produced the magazine with a portable typewriter and folding card table.
Later, he produced at state-wide sports directory, “Texas Sports Guide,” and ultimately the “National Directory of College Athletics.” The latter was the “Bible” of college sports, listing pertinent information on every two-year and four-year college in the United States and Canada. He sold the venture in 1992, prior to his second open-heart surgery.
During this period, he edited and published many other products. “What’s In a Nickname?” revealed the history of college nicknames and mascots and was reviewed by “Sports Illustrated.” Three “Ol’ Coach Jokebooks” featured cartoons and tales centered around a character he created, along with artist friend Glen Zulauf.
However, the projects that afforded him the most satisfaction were the two volumes of “Amarillo, Texas, A Picture Post-Card History”. These best-selling coffee table books were produced during the favorite city’s 100-year anniversary. Franks edited, researched and published these historical treasures with post-cards supplied by Jay Ketelle.
After his publishing career, he authored 107 stories as free-lance writer with “Accent West” magazine. His many contributions in the field of publishing earned him a spot in the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, West Texas State University’s Hall of Champions and the Dick Risenhoover Award.
A charter member of Paramount Baptist Church, Ray was a deacon and active with his wife in its youth and special education departments. In later years, he worked with the church’s “Grief Share” program. For many years, he also volunteered with Gideons International.
An avid traveler, Franks toured most of the world on writing assignments, short-term mission trips and memorable vacations.
He is survived by daughter, Debbie and husband Tim Sharp of Albuquerque, New Mexico; a son, Randy Franks of Round Rock; and son, David and wife Sandy Franks of Oak Point; six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Also surviving are brother-in-law Clifford Webb of Amarillo; and brother-in-law Dan and wife Mandy Webb of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the “Floy Franks Scholarship Fund” at Paramount Baptist Church, 3801 S. Western St, Amarillo, TX 79109 or Gideons International, Box 2304, Amarillo, TX 79105.