The Florida Carpenters Training Program is regarded as one of the best carpenter, pile driver, and millwright training programs of the UBC.
Earning this reputation is to the credit of its long-time Executive Director, Franklin Gray, who expertly guided the program with professionalism, efficiency, and genuine regard for every man and woman who trained under the Florida curriculum.
But after an outstanding career within the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Franklin Gray is retiring. And, according to his circle of colleagues, his influence will remain an integral part of training in Florida, the Southern District, and the entire Brotherhood.
“When Franklin assumed the duties of Training Director, the program was failing, but he brought it up out of the ashes to its premier status,” said Florida Carpenters’ EST James Banks. “But it’s not just the training program that he elevated. He is the reason behind the success of the Florida Carpenters Regional Council.”
Banks was a Florida Council Rep when Gray joined the Florida Training program.
The two began a working relationship that strengthened over the years, including up to and through Banks’ current position as Executive Secretary-Treasurer.
Within six months of becoming Florida’s EST, Banks was diagnosed with cancer. “Frank stepped in and helped me through it all. His encouragement was invaluable and he did all he could to keep everything running smoothly while I healed. Frank should’ve been an EST, too, and he would’ve been a damn fine one, given all of his education and experience. But he chose to help me with that, instead,” Banks said.
“Franklin Gray is, without question, one of the finest men I’ve ever met. I owe him a tremendous amount.”
Franklin with EST Banks
Neither EST Banks nor other UBC leaders believe Gray will be forgotten anytime soon.
“When I think about Franklin Gray, a few words come to mind: Professional. Gentleman. Friend,” said UBC Southern District Vice President (DVP) Dennis Donahou. The DVP and Gray have been colleagues for several decades as each made their way through the ranks of the UBC.
“Frank’s professionalism and technical expertise is evident in the outstanding training program that he created. We are fortunate that many aspects of his work are emulated not just throughout the Southern District, but the entire Brotherhood,” Donahou said. “Like all those who have had the pleasure to work with him, I have benefitted from Frank’s counsel and insight over the years, and I am just as proud to call him a valued colleague as I am in calling him a dear friend.”
CITF' Bill Irwin (left) with Franklin
The heart of the UBC is its training program, run by Bill Irwin, Executive Director of the Carpenters International Training Fund (CITF) and a long-time colleague of Gray.
“Frank has always spoken with a steady and straight-forward authority from the day I met him,” Irwin said. “His work as an advisor and instructor for the CITF class, Director/Coordinator 101, and as a long-time member of the Carpenters Advisory Group helped bring UBC Training into the 21st century. We’ve become good friends and I appreciate the wealth of knowledge he has shared with me concerning training over the years. Frank’s shoes are going to be hard to fill and he will be missed. I wish him well in his retirement.”
General President Doug McCarron and Franklin
Here, in his own words, is an open letter from Franklin Gray to the UBC family…
“I graduated high school in 1964, and needed to find work immediately. The old TNT Plant was being reactivated to produce dynamite for the Vietnam War, and there were jobs available. I applied to Local Union #654 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was accepted as a first-year apprentice, and was off and running in a career spanning more than 53 years. What a wonderful, exciting, journey it has been!
I worked with my tools, but I eventually became an Apprenticeship Instructor, a Training Coordinator, and then a Statewide Training Director for Carpenters, Millwrights, and Pile Drivers. I’ve been privileged to hold that position with three different UBC Southern District Regional Councils for 38 years, including the Florida Carpenters Regional Council (FCRC) the past 14 years.
Franklin and DVP Donahou
As I move to the next chapter of my life, it is bittersweet to reflect on my career. It saddens me to think I may never have the opportunity again to work with the many talented, dedicated, and hard working staff of the FCRC. The Council and its various Training Programs are led by the very best individuals to be found anywhere in the UBC, bar none! Combine that with the strong leadership of UBC Southern District Vice President Dennis Donahou and the fresh approach EST James Banks brings to the FCRC, and the future is virtually limitless for the FCRC!
The happiness and fulfillment I take with me is in knowing I played a small part helping to expand and improve the training and skill enhancements of union carpenters, millwrights and pile drivers in Florida.
The dynamic changes that occurred over the years in the UBC’s Training Department can’t be overemphasized. We’ve gone from borrowing tools to train with from some sympathetic Carpenter Journeyman, to now having the latest “state-of-the-art” equipment, tools, and professionally trained Instructors in all of our Training Programs for Apprentices and Journeymen.
I leave fulltime employment knowing that I am one of the most fortunate guys in the UBC Southern District, and I want all of the carpenter, millwright, and pile driver members, staff, and leadership to know that their support and friendship will never be forgotten.”
Passing the Torch – Franklin Gray Style
Over the last several months, Gray has worked closely with the new Florida Training Program Executive Director, Jimmie Jordan, to ensure a smooth, successful transition. Jimmie is a 30-year veteran of the UBC, and is a member of Millwright Local 1000 in Tampa. He, like Frank, has earned his way up as an instructor and training coordinator.
“It is a great privilege and honor to be named Director for the Florida Carpenters, Millwrights and Pile Drivers Training Trust Fund,” Jordan said. “We will continue to provide the best and most up-to-date training in all of Florida for our current members and future generations of members. I look forward to guiding our training programs into the future by implementing new and developing technologies into our already successful training.”
“I believe Jimmie will take our training program to another level,” Banks said. “He is a hard worker and is going to do very well, and I have no doubt we will continue to move the program forward. We can’t replace a Franklin Gray, but we are gaining a younger, and more aggressive version of Franklin’s leadership style.”Banks said Gray has agreed to help-out the Training Program and Council at times as a consultant. “It’s a sad day for me to lose such a valued member of my team, but I am happy that Franklin is now able to enjoy the retirement that he worked so hard for, and yet keep us on his radar, as well.”