The History of 1st Franklin Financial
In 1941, Ben F. Cheek, Jr. made his first auto loan for $34 from his law office in Toccoa, Georgia. Entering the consumer finance industry as Franklin Discount Company, only a few loans were made those first few months with operating capital coming from relatives, friends and local banks. The business incorporated in 1946 and moved into its own building in 1947. Early on, the Company expanded its services into insurance, beginning with Credit Automobile insurance in 1948.
In 1950 the Company expanded its services by selling investment securities to the public to finance its loan operation. Beginning with its first sale of a $12 certificate, business grew to 200 local investors with purchases of $203,000 by 1955. The Company relocated in 1951 and remained as an one-office operation until 1955, when it began opening additional loan offices in Toccoa, Clarkesville, and Lavonia, Georgia. In 1956, Credit Life and Accident & Health insurance were added to the Company’s insurance offerings.
By 1960, the Company had 500 investment customers with purchases over $1,000,000. With the number of investment customers increasing, the Company constructed a new Corporate Headquarters and Investment Center in 1966. Investment securities continued to grow and by 1969 over $5,000,000 had been invested. But investment sales weren’t the only thing growing. By the end of the decade loan services were operating out of 15 offices in Georgia.
By 1970, the Company employed a total of 70 employees. In 1972, Founder Ben F. Cheek, Jr. resigned as President of the Company turning over the reigns to son, Ben F. Cheek, III. Ben Cheek, Jr. maintained an active role as Chairman of the Board until his death in 1988. In order to reinsure credit insurance written by the Company, the decision was made to form its own insurance company. This resulted in the formation of Frandisco Life Insurance Company in 1977. 1979 was a year of big change when the Company moved from manual to computer loan processing. By the end of the 70’s, loans were being served out of 49 branches in Georgia, and investment sales had reached $14.8 million through 2500 investment customers.
Feeling the name “Franklin Discount Company” no longer reflected its services, the Company adopted the new name, “1st Franklin Financial Corporation” in 1983. In 1984, construction was completed on a major expansion of the Corporate Headquarters and Investment Center facilities and remains their home today. In 1987, loan operations expanded into neighboring South Carolina with the opening of the Clemson office. Sadly, in September 1988, the Company experienced the passing of Founder Ben F. Cheek, Jr. His unfailing efforts to see each employee take pride in being fair, honest and friendly to our customers, earned us the reputation of being known as the “Friendly Franklin Folks” still today.
In 1991, 1st Franklin Financial celebrated its 50th Anniversary with the number of offices having grown to 77 in Georgia and South Carolina. The 90s were a decade of phenomenal growth for the Company. Loan services moved into Alabama in 1992, and Louisiana and Mississippi in 1996. By the end of the decade, the Company had 178 branch locations and 682 employees.
The Company began the turn of the century looking forward to a new century of opportunity. Investment customers had grown to over 6100 with purchases of almost $150 million. Steady growth was seen over the next few years, but 2005 was a year not soon to forget. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused extensive damage in our Louisiana and Mississippi service areas. Although no employees were injured, 28 of our offices suffered damage and our Bay St. Louis, Mississippi office was completely destroyed. The office was reopened in a new location later that year. In 2008, loan services moved into Tennessee with the opening of 7 offices. By the end of the decade, the company had opened 57 new offices and our employees now numbered over 1,000 across the Southeast.