Growing up an Army brat, Linda Franks dreamed of one day serving as a lawyer or judge advocate general, driven even then to give those to the voiceless and power to the powerless. These dreams were only galvanized when young Linda saw her hometown of Mobile Alabama set ablaze by the rage of the Ku Klux Klan, a fury only extinguished when 19-year-old Michael Donald was lynched and hung from a tree.
Little did the Klan know that the strongest fire they lit that night would burn in Linda’s heart forever, spurring her to bring justice to an unjust world. During her personal journey through life, Linda has been on her own personal crusade to live a life full of purpose and deep meaning to serve humanity and something much greater than herself. To be a steward of empathy, compassion, and understanding through non-violent leadership for her community, family, and friends. Linda is the silent observer of a large crowd that can hear both sides and mediate conflict and justice through effective communication, education, and skillful action.
This lifelong commitment to justice and community building became deeply personal in May of 2015, when her son Lamar fell victim to the indifference and cruelty of an unfair and predatory system. Pulled over for a simple window tinting infraction, he was sent to jail for a years-old warrant and denied bail, despite the arresting officer noting at the time how calm and cooperative Lamar had been. Inside the prison, he was thrown in isolation, beaten by fellow inmates and ultimately found dead in his cell.
The fire inside Linda that called for justice grew to an inferno. And when she found just how many young men had shared her son’s cruel fate — 45 prisoners died in the East Baton Rouge Jail between 2009 and 2019, nearly double the national average — she knew she had to direct that passion toward ending this tragic injustice by educating the public and bringing awareness to her community and country about what is happening inside jails. In the days and weeks following the death of Lamar, Linda began to receive calls from other families whose loved ones died while in custody at the same jail. Together these families formed the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition. This coalition’s mission is to educate the public about how the criminal justice system works. This includes bringing awareness to the role of the public defenders and cost and toll that mass incarceration has on families and communities.
After the inception of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, Linda aligned with criminal justice advocates and attorneys to become the Executive Director of The Fair Fight Initiative, a 501c3 organization that advocates for equal treatment under the law, confronts systemic injustice, and helps victims challenge abusers of power in court. Through litigation and community advocacy, Fair Fight Initiative exposes mistreatment in the law enforcement system and works to end mass incarceration.
It has been a long but fulfilling journey, one for which Linda has drawn on those around her and her community for strength and courage to persevere. Joining her on her journey are Karl, her husband of 30 years; Linda’s two grown sons; and the memories of Lamar and her late mother and grandmother, the two most important women in her life. Linda’s mother raised her on her own while encouraging her daughter to stand up for others and seek justice wherever it was obscured by the powerful. Her grandmother was a beautician who passed on her talents to Linda as well as her knowledge that the true heart of the community is the sanctity and shared joy of the beauty salon. Linda’s continues her pursuit for justice and equanimity to make it a fair fight for those most vulnerable and desperately in need. Please join Linda and the Fair Fight community by making a tax-deductible donation or volunteering your time today.