The year 1941 had just begun when Ben Cheek Jr. placed his first ad in the local newspaper. “Auto Loans for purchasing new and used cars,” said the ad in the Toccoa Record. “Prompt service. Lowest rates.” Ben was working as a lawyer back then. He might have fed his family by staying in that job all his life. But he knew there were people in the community who had plans and dreams — and they needed just a bit of support to make those dreams a reality.
What if he could help? So he made his first loan — $34 to a local gentleman who wanted to buy a car. At a time when manufacturing workers were likely to earn about $1,500 a year and a dozen eggs cost 39 cents, that loan was no small thing. The two men shook hands, making a personal connection and launching what would grow to become
1st Franklin Financial.
That first year was a tough one in America. As the Brooklyn Dodgers battled the Yankees for the World Series crown and Humphrey Bogart was busy catching bad guys in “The Maltese Falcon” on movie screens, all eyes were on World War II. By December, the United States would join the fight. And as families struggled through the war years, Ben would keep on lending to his neighbors to help them build the lives they wanted.
His granddaughter, Ginger Herring, now 1st Franklin’s President and CEO, smiles remembering stories of Ben always getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to start his day – and how he’d often be the last one at his desk after the sun had set in the evening. Ben built an honest loan company on the notion that even if someone didn’t have great credit, they deserved access to a loan that would improve their life. By the 1950s, he was also helping people grow their money by investing.
Throughout the decades, his family worked alongside him to expand the 1st Franklin community. He turned over the reins to his son Ben III in 1972, and on Ben III’s watch the business grew.
A few decades later, Ben III was pleased to step into the Vice Chairman role as his daughter, Ginger, became President and CEO, and his son, Buddy Cheek, became Chairman. As the next generation took on these leadership roles, the company kept on growing. The 1st Franklin family now includes more than 1,000 employees at more than 300 locations in six southern states. The company has truly grown and evolved in the 80 years since that first loan was made. But Ben’s message remains clear: Your honesty and your integrity are your greatest assets, and you never want to lose them.
1st Franklin is still family-owned and still does that same caring, personal lending just like it did 80 years ago — helping neighbors with quick loans, and respectful, friendly service.
These days, you can do a great many things without talking to another person at all. You can order groceries and download movies and even start your loan application completely online. In this digital age, 1st Franklin still values getting to know their customers to better understand their plans and goals. When difficult times happen, they can make quick loans with the terms laid out openly and clearly.
“We’re in the business of helping our friends and neighbors make their way through life with the dignity and respect they deserve,” says Ginger. As the company celebrates its 80th anniversary, she says, “we take great pride in investing in our communities and giving back to them as much as they give to us.”
Click here to learn more about 1st Franklin Financial and how we can help you do life.