Published in The Sacramento Bee on Aug. 30, 2020.
1945 - 2020
Franklin Withrow, poet, motivator, retired educator
and self-proclaimed Ebony King, was born in
Washington, D.C. on July 17, 1945.
He was in elementary school when the historic
Brown vs Board of Education ruling desegregated
D.C. Public Schools in 1954. He attended Anacostia High School and eventually
transferred to Calvin Coolidge High School where he graduated in 1964.
His treatment in school after desegregation determined his path in life. Frank was
among the first African-Americans in the nation's capital to run the mile in track when
he was in high school. However, he was best known for his prowess on the basketball
court and enrolled at Fayetteville State Teachers College on a basketball scholarship
where he was known as the Candy Man because his jump shot was so sweet. In
1969, Frank received his B.S. degree in Business Education from Fayetteville State
He returned to Washington and immediately began having an impact on young
people. He was the first African-American to serve as Director of the Neighborhood
Youth Corps for the Recreation Department from 1969 to 1971. For two years, he
taught for D.C. Public Schools. Some childhood friends encouraged Frank to move to
Sacramento in 1972 where he began working as a teacher and administrator in the
Sacramento City Unified School District. He played basketball on Mel Rapton's
semi-pro team and made more money playing ball than he did teaching.
He attended California State University-Sacramento and obtained his Master of Arts
in Educational Administration. He also became a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha
Psi Fraternity, Inc. In his classrooms at C.K. McClatchy and Sacramento High
Schools, his first priority was planting seeds of knowledge and boosting students'
self-esteem. He had an active after-school program and founded the African
American Cultural Exchange Program at C.K. McClatchy High School. It allowed high
school students to mentor younger students and share their rich culture. Frank joined
the United Black Student Unions of California Advisory Board and served as the
chairperson for 15 years. He worked with over one thousand high school students
around the state.
As the owner of Reasons for Rhyme, he traveled across the country working with
students, teachers and parents and raising student test scores. For 10 years, Frank
served as a consultant for the California Department of Social Services where he
developed classes for foster youth in the Independent Living Program. He coordinated
a program for businesses to hire foster youth for the Casey Foundation and worked
with incarcerated wards of the California Youth Authority. He conducted seminars on
women and minorities in the workforce for the California Department of Education
Equity Network and developed critical thinking classes for 8th graders for the
Sacramento City College Early Start Program. For 32 years, he honored Sacramento
County middle school students with an 8th Grade Award based on academic
achievement, athletics and community service.
When he came to Sacramento, Frank brought a sense of style demonstrated on
fashion runways in Washington. He was a dapper dresser and his clothes were
always coordinated whether it was evening or leisure wear. He designed many of the
clothes he wore and formed adult and student fashion groups that traveled around
Frank accepted Christ in his life as a young man. So, it was no surprise when he
stepped up to run the bookstore at Antioch Progressive Church in Sacramento for 11
years. Part of the bookstore proceeds went to scholarships for young people and he
served on the church scholarship committee.
Over the years, Frank published over 60 books, along with posters, calendars and
educational raps and was known as "The Middle-Aged Rapper." In 2004, he retired
from Sacramento City Schools but continued to travel around the country to speak and
conduct workshops at schools and educational conferences. His new moniker
became "Triple OG" - that was "OG" for Outstanding Gentleman.
Frank received numerous awards and honors. They include being named as the Poet
Laureate (the Kappa Rapper) for the Western Province of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
He was honored with the Outstanding Alumni in Education Award by the Calvin
Coolidge High School Alumni Association, the Medallion of Honor Lifetime
Achievement Award in Education by the Sacramento Observer Newspaper and the
Living Legacy Award for Education by Antioch Progressive Church.
In 1997, he was inducted into the International Educational Hall of Fame and in 2015,
he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and The
Hero of Human Services Award from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
Frank would tell everyone he met, "Your responsibility is to secure knowledge and to
develop a technique in which you use that knowledge wisely."
After a battle with cancer, Frank passed away on August 7, 2020 at home.
He was preceded in death by his loving parents, Henry Miller Withrow and Rossie
Kathleen Harshaw and brother, Donald.
He leaves to cherish his memory, his wife and Ebony Queen, Karen Massie Withrow;
daughter, Melissa Carter of Long Beach, CA; sister, Henrietta Farve of Washington
D.C.; aunt, Helen Love of Shelby, NC; mother-in-law, Lillie Mack Massie of Xenia, OH;
brothers-in-law, Marshall Massie (Beverly) of Charlotte, NC; Michael Massie (Jackie)
of Xenia, OH; Kevin Massie (Carla) of Napa, CA; nephew, Edgar Anthony Farve of
Washington D.C.; nieces and nephew, Jessica, Jennifer and Kevin Massie II of Napa,
CA; and a host of relatives, life-long friends and former students.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a celebration of Frank's life will be held at a later