Interview with Fran Mills Syptak about her life and her activism. Fran was born in 1929, lived in Jordan and Germany, and is an activist.
Recorded February 14, 2018 Archived February 14, 2018 57:15 minutes
DescriptionHere is a biography of Fran, based on the interview.
Interviewer comment: "I am always struck by how important people are to Fran. I think that life is all about the people she's known in her 90 years on Earth."
Fran Syptak Biography
Francis Linton Mills, later Francis Syptak, was born on January 10, 1929 in Albany, Georgia, the only girl of her parents' four children. Both of her parents were teachers. Her father and brother Hugh were conservationists and Roosevelt Democrats. Fran attended Mercer University. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born six days after Fran's birth. Fran married Hal Syptak in 1955 in Augsburg, Germany. During WWII, Hal was in the First Infantry Division from D Day to VE Day; he stayed with Army of Occupation for 2 more years. Later, Hal was an avionics engineer for American Airlines. Fran and Hal had one child, son Jamie, who was born in 1963.
Fran has traveled extensively and her travel has influenced her thinking about the world. She has lived in several different countries and a number of different states. Fran lived in Germany, Switzerland, France, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. In the US, she's lived in Georgia, California, Oklahoma, and North Carolina.
As she was born in 1929, she was in junior high as the US was entering World War II. She recalls that her school dressed her in "During WWII, they tried to make us like our version of Hitler youth. And I was in junior high when it started and I thought that it was wonderful to have a boys' shirt and a blue skirt and an overseas cap. But by the time I got to high school, I noticed that we had to line up and that the bullies would be our commanding officers."
"When I came back from Europe, and I had worked with the military after half a Master's at Emory." "When we came back out and went to Tulsa, OK, it was the 60s and it was a new world. In '63 when Jamie was born, it was the march on Washington, and all of the assassinations."
In Tulsa, she became a Unitarian. The unrest at the time played into her activism. The first group she joined was NOW (the National Organization for Women).
Later, while living in Jordan where Hal was working on a microwave project for the Jordanian army, Fran saw a refugee camp for the first time, and it changed the way she looked at the world. "My first visit to a refugee camp was just outside of Amman in Jordan. It was filled with Palestinians and Arafat, leader of the PLO, was in exile in Tunisia. It was run by the UNRA (a refugee agency) and had it's own city government with schools, groceries etc. - in other words they were refugees in their own Country." Fran later joined Amnesty International, which is still a major passion in her life.
In 1978, Fran moved to Hickory, NC and bought a house there. She lived in that same house for 40 years. In the front room is a magnificent piano that used to belong to her mother. In Hickory, she has worked for the League of Women Voters and the Democratic Women and the NAACP. She's proud that Hickory is home to ALFA, the AIDS organization. She's always been inspired by people who go on mission trips and do other things to reach out and help others. Clearly, her world travel, her compassionate heart and her eager mind have fueled her good works throughout her lifetime.