Frank Gratton Corker was born in 1869 in Burke County, Georgia. His father, Stephen A. Corker, was five years removed from leading his company up the slopes of Gettysburg’s Cemetery Ridge in an initially successful, but quickly fatal, breaking of the Union lines late on the evening of July 2, 1863 - a success which led to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s belief that a full out strike on the Union center led by Gen. George Pickett would be successful the next day.
Corker, as the son of a wealthy plantation owner, attorney, state representative and congressman, enjoyed the rudiments of a fine education. Growing up with his two brothers, Stephen, Jr. and Palmer, gave Frank a great advantage in his studies. Following in his father’s footsteps of practicing law and serving others, Corker was a champion debater in the University of Georgia’s Few Society and a prominent member of Alpha Tau Omega. Corker later helped to establish a chapter of that latter fraternity at Georgia Tech. Frank graduated from the law school at Emory College.
Frank Corker married Alice Lillian Cole of Savannah in 1890 and moved to Dublin. Corker joined his brother Stephen, who was described in an 1888 Augusta Chronicle article as “an enterprising merchant of Dublin.”
Corker chose to live in and practice law in Dublin because it was on the cusp of an economic boom, where lawyers would be needed and fortunes could be made. And, best of all, it was not too far from his favorite resort, Savannah’s Tybee Island.
Within three years, Corker became so popular that he was elected on the Citizens ticket as Mayor of Dublin in 1893, defeating the equally popular Lucien Q. Stubbs, a local military leader and newspaper editor who was elected many more times in the future. The Citizens party was determined to stem the ever rising tide of crime and immorality in the burgeoning city.
Corker, in addition to his daily duties as a practicing attorney, served as the Solicitor of the County Court. Corker, who continued to practiced law in the booming city, turned to commercial interests to boost his ever growing fortune. Along with his brothers, Stephen and Palmer, Frank Corker formed the Dublin Cotton Oil Company, which was sold at a handsome profit in 1901 to Virginia-Carolina Chemical Company, which became Southern Cotton Oil Company.
One of Corker’s most lasting contributions to the Emerald City of Dublin was as the president of the Dublin Free Public Library. In 1904, Corker, on behalf of the board, accepted mega philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s $10,000.00 donation to build a public library in Dublin, one without a charge to its patrons.
Corker’s public interests were strongly rooted in education. As a member of the Dublin City Board of Education for more than a decade, Corker, who served many terms as the board’s president, worked with the library in its early years and oversaw the construction of the High School (now City Hall) and the Johnson Street and Saxon Heights elementary schools.
Corker’s elegant, Ionic columned, neo classical home at 712 Bellevue, now owned by Griffin Lovett, is considered the crown jewel of Bellevue Avenue. Corker occupied the three-story home from about 1903 until his removal to Atlanta.
A founding member of the Dublin Board of Trade in 1902, Corker was also a founding member of the Chamber of Commerce in 1911. His business expertise and economic power and influence led to his appointments as a director of the Dublin Cotton Mill and the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad - the latter position which allowed him free passage on his trips to his favorite destination on Tybee Island.
Frank Corker was, among many things, a car afficionado. Corker was among the first men in Dublin to own his own automobile, a White gasoline car. In 1911, Corker promoted car tours across the state by the state’s wealthiest and most influential men.
Corker and his family moved about 1920 to Atlanta, where he could manage his commercial interests in that city. The financial magnate owned many commercial properties in the capital city including the Cecil Hotel.
A Methodist by birth who later attended Druid Hills Baptist Church during his latter years in Atlanta, a Mason and a Shriner, Corker enjoyed many outings at the Druid Hills Country Club near his home.
One winters’ day, Corker, a successful real estate dealer, both in Dublin and Atlanta, came home from his office in the Hurt Building in Atlanta. Not feeling well, he took leave of his supper and retired to bed early. He was found dead in his bedroom of his home at 1347 Fairview Road the following morning of Christmas Eve 1931. Frank Corker was buried in Westview Cemetery, leaving behind his widow Alice, who died in 1961, along with his daughters - May, Lula, and Myrtis - and sons - Paul Gratton, Frank Burke, William B. and Isadore Newman.
Frank Corker’s dream became a nightmare in the autumn of 1928. The once powerful First National Bank, the largest country bank in Georgia which occupied the ground floors of the tallest building between Macon and Savannah, failed.
And now, some eighty-seven autumns later, Corker’s dream lives again.