3 things needed to be a “steeplejack”

Steeplejack Fred Franklin calls a friend on the ground about the upcoming storm at First Christian Church on Wednesday, Aug.  3, 2022. Franklin was unable to paint due to thunderstorms coming from the north.

Fred Franklin has been peering down at neighborhoods, cityscapes and the earth itself for more than 60 years, but when he’s in Augusta, he’s more often looking eye-level at a church steeple. Since the 1990s, Franklin has been the steeplejack of choice for several Augusta churches, from Sacred Heart Cultural Center to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. Steeplejacks are responsible for maintaining and preserving those sky-high points of historical churches, which require special skills, equipment and courage.

Franklin, 74, has had that last component for as long as he can remember.

“In Boy Scouts, I’d rappel when I was 12,” he said. “I was a big tree climber growing up, and then I started caving when I was in Boy Scouts. When I turned 16, I got a car, so we would go up to the caves and we would learn how to do vertical rope work So that was my first real technical rope work.”