Democrat Selim Franklin supported womens’ right to vote, and helped found the UofA and the Corporation Commission. This article is the first in a continuing series about Democratic Heroes of Tucson.

While people are focused on public servants who strive to move communities forward, it is important to remember Democrats who came before and paved the road for all of us to walk on.

Selim Franklin, an early Democrat in Tucson, is one person that citizens of Tucson should honor for his contributions to Arizona before it became a state.

Born in San Bernardino, California on October 19, 1859, Franklin attended the University of California law school and became an attorney in 1883. He moved to Tucson to practice law when Arizona was just a United States territory.

According to documents from the Arizona Historical Society, one of Franklin’s defense clients, who was on trial for stealing a watch, offered to pay for his legal services with the stolen watch. After that, he switched to a corporate law practice.

In 1884, he sought the Democratic nomination to the Territorial House on a progressive reform slate and won election to the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature.

First published on LD9 Democrats.

As a member of that body, he was a proponent for woman’s suffrage and the creation of what would eventually become the Arizona Corporation Commission. Most importantly, he was instrumental in founding the University of Arizona, where he was the first professor. Franklin would later serve on the University of Arizona Board of Regents.

Franklin, Territorial School Superintendent Charles Strauss, and Jacob Mansfield convinced three businessmen to donate 40 acres of desert land to place the university.

Imagine Tucson without one of Arizona’s nationally recognized state universities.

Franklin would also go on to serve as the City Attorney of Tucson, Assistant Pima County Attorney, United States District Attorney for the Arizona Territory, and President of the Arizona Bar Association.

Franklin participated in the Capitol Committee that designated Phoenix as the capital of Arizona.

Arizona would appear differently today if not for the influence of Selim Franklin.