In 1944, the valedictorian of Carver High School in Walton County was 14-year-old Eleanor Lutia Ison, a young African American student who was the daughter of Professor L.L. Ison and Rose Ison. According to Steve Brown, Monroe’s historian with the Monroe Museum, her father was a well-known educator and frequent lecturer in South Georgia. He also was chosen by the Works Progress Administration to supervise a program of Negro Education in Georgia. Her mother, Rose, was a fixture in Monroe education for decades.
But it was the path the young Carver High School graduate went on to carve for herself that makes her so inspirational. She graduated four years later just, six months after her 18th birthday, Magna Cum Laude from Spelman College with a bachelor’s degree in biology. In 1951 she got her Master of Science degree and in 1957 she earned her Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, teaching biology during this time at Spelman as well as the University of Wisconsin. For these efforts, we was awarded a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation. She changed her name from Dr. Ison to Dr. Ison-Franklin in 1965 when she married George Franklin.
Brown goes on to note, “In 1971, she was elevated to the position of professor a year after she had been named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Her appointment marked the first time a woman had been appointed a dean in one of the nation’s oldest and most highly respected black universities. According to one Internet source, Dr. Ison-Franklin was the first woman, black or white, to serve as the head of a university medical department in America.”
Dr. Eleanor Ison-Franklin died on Oct. 2, 1998, after suffering a heart attack. She was actually born in Dublin, Ga., but had the roots of her early education firmly planted in the Walton County Community.
For more information on this and other notable African Americans featured in the Monroe Museum, click or tap on the website or the Facebook page. The video below is the full feature on Dr. Eleanor Ison-Franklin and her remarkable story by Steve Brown with the Monroe Museum.