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A Fitting Tribute for the Goat Man

Volunteer Tom Deardorff (l) and HOF Executive Director David Moore along with their Capturing the Spirit of Oakland co-star, Max

Volunteer Tom Deardorff (l) and HOF Executive Director David Moore along with their Capturing the Spirit of Oakland co-star, Max

Each year during Halloween, Historic Oakland Foundation brings to life the stories of a few of its residents during the ever-popular Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween tours. Presented through vivid historical re-enactments, these tours impart the stories of Atlantans both renowned and obscure.
In October 2015, Capturing the Spirit attendees heard one particularly unique story from William Jasper “the Goat Man” Franklin. Known on the Atlanta streets for his carted companion (a goat named Pete) William sold apples and pencils for spare change that helped support his family. When the Goat Man died, his plot at Oakland Cemetery was unmarked for decades until his story was uncovered last fall.
Thanks to generous contributions from Capturing the Spirit tour-goers, HOF raised over $2,400 to have a permanent marker built for the Goat Man and his parents who lie in rest besides William. On May 14, 2016 Historic Oakland Foundation unveiled permanent markers for the Franklin family plot
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New headstone for William Jasper “the Goat Man” Franklin’s mother

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New headstone for William Jasper “the Goat Man” Franklin’s father

At the dedication ceremony, Historic Oakland Foundation Executive Director David Moore – who portrayed the Goat Man at Halloween – recounted William’s story in this touching poem:
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Max, who portrayed “Peter” at Capturing the Spirit, next to William Jasper Franklin’s new headstone

A Tribute to Our “Goat Man” William Jasper Franklin
by David Moore
There are 70,000 residents who lie beneath our feet
And each one has a story, and every one’s unique
There are governors and mayors, who make their mark on history
And ones who just plain folk, the ones like you and me
Everyone who walks this earth affects his earthly brother
Although we do not always know our effect on one another
The man who lives the simple life each and every day
Can be a source of inspiration for us along the way
And so it is with our honoree, William Jasper Franklin
Who made his mark upon our lives and now we get to thank him
Born in 1850, the son of James and Mary Ann
Brimming with youth and promise the boy became a man
But at age 19 he was afflicted with a sickness uninvited
Spread by war and soldiers, the dreaded meningitis
Undaunted James was determined to help his boy survive
So he fashioned a cart for a goat named Pete, with which his son could drive
Thus was born an Atlanta legend and now we know for sure
A familiar sight to all, our original entrepreneur
Jasper spent his days downtown upon the courthouse steps
Entertaining the high and mighty with his awesome salesmanship
“Gimme a nickel, gimme a nickel!” they often heard him say
He made a lot of money and bought Pete a lot of hay
“What good is he,” the rich men said, “He’s nothing but a pest.”
“And for that awful goat smell, he’s one we should arrest.”
Undaunted, Jasper never left his post, most Atlantans really cared
No matter how their lives would change, Jasper was always there
Selling pencils and apples with Pete, each and every day
Earning him the now so famous “Goat Man” sobriquet!
And when the Goat Man disappeared his mother was sick about it
The community rallied behind their friend, his rescue no one doubted
Like George Bailey we don’t often know the hole we leave unkind
Until we’re gone and our presence missed by those we leave behind
And so it is with William, he transcends both time and space
As Atlanta’s famous fixture I think he knew his place
But where he went that summer day in 1899
Will be his secret now and until the end of time
Everyone who walks this earth affects his earthly brother
Although we do not always know our effect on one another
For 20 years he was, as the paper said, a “landmark in this town”
Always there on the courthouse steps the Goat Man could be found
That’s something we can learn from him: what’s our place in history’s story
Do your part, and throw your seeds, never mind who gets the glory
Because at last we end up here all equal in His eyes
With loving friends and family gather round us to eulogize
To be as fortunate as Jasper to be remembered that we lived
With a visit from our friends who for our grave some flowers give
Because we made a difference in someone’s life along the way
And just like Jasper we were always there for them each and every day.
View more photos of Oakland Cemetery’s dedication ceremony and spring volunteer appreciation party by clicking here.

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