ur county’s namesake, Benjamin Franklin, was a complex man, praised by many, criticized by others, but who has gone down in American history as a statesman, author, scientist, inventor, diplomat, even a business strategist and a practical political thinker.

He was a man of multiple talents. To say he left his mark in many fields is an understatement. As a founding father of the United States, Franklin was the only person to sign four great documents of the period — the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris and the U.S. Constitution. From Pennsylvania, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Franklin (1706-1790) published Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732-37) and the Pennsylvania Gazette (1729-48). He was one of the first printers in America.

e organized the American Philosophical Society and when you get your mail think of Ol’ Ben, who improved the postal service when he was deputy postmaster general for the colonies. He is credited as an inventor, as one of the early developers of electricity, devised the lightning rod, invented the Franklin stove and is credited as the man who came up with the idea of bifocals. He developed charts of the Gulf Stream and his agile mind produced theories about the contagious nature of the common cold. He drifted from one field to another and always left his mark.

In researching Franklin, we were surprised to learn that he came up with the idea of lending libraries, volunteer fire corps, insurance associations and the matching-grant fundraiser.

is mind overflowed with curiosity and the wisdom he had traveled into so many fields of endeavor that he has gone down in history as a mental giant with faith in the middle American. Walter Isaacson in his book on “Benjamin Franklin,” published in 2003, wrote:

“Franklin’s most important vision was an American national identity based on the virtues and values of its middle class. Instinctively more comfortable with democracy than were his fellow founders, and devoid of the snobbery that later critics would feel toward his own shopkeeping values, he had faith in the wisdom of the common man and felt that a new nation would draw its strength from what he called ‘the middling people.’ Through his self-improvement tips for cultivating personal virtues and his civic-improvement schemes for furthering the common good, he helped to create, to celebrate, a new ruling class of ordinary citizens.”

More than 100 years after the death of Franklin, the founders of Franklin County, recognizing a unique man in early America, decided that the county should bear his name. Franklin County is celebrating its bicentennial this year, which has put the spotlight on its namesake.

It is just a coincidence that East Central College is observing its 50th anniversary this year and the kickoff of the county’s bicentennial celebration was held there Saturday.