From the 5th Grade to the Present, Frankie Dakin and Stanton Brown Have Each Other's Back
By Gaye Swan
The lifelong friendship of Frankie Dakin ’14 and Stanton Brown ’14 began, as so many friendships in the South do, with football. In 2002 on a field in Millington, TN, the two determined young players joined forces with their fellow fifth-graders to play ball for the Shelby Youth Sports (SYS) League Millington Trojans. Fifteen years later, they have a surprising number of memories about the games they played over the years.
“Stanton was always a better player,” says Frankie.
“Frankie always had my back, though,” says Stanton.
The Dakin and Brown families became fast friends, as they met often at the field. Both their fathers were retired military, and both were very supportive, to put it mildly, of their sons’ athletic careers.
“Our last year with SYS, we had just one loss—to the Memphis Bears—heading into the playoffs,” says Frankie. “We had another shot at the Bears and we won, so we just knew we would win the championship game. Stanton’s dad had already printed up our championship T-shirts before the game!”
Alas for the Trojans (and Mr. Brown), the Southwind Titans staged a come-from-behind drive to win the game by one point, 14-13.
“Stanton scored two touchdowns though,” says Frankie. “He had a great game.”
In 2006, when high school rolled around, they were finally together off the field as well as on, when they attended Millington Central High School. As a standout wingback (Stanton) and defensive lineman (Frankie), they helped lead their freshman football team to an undefeated season, followed by an undefeated sophomore year in 2007. Once again anticipating a championship game, their fathers booked hotel rooms early in the season.
“But my dad didn’t print any T-shirts during high school,” says Stanton. “I think he learned a lesson.”
The young men excelled in other areas of high school. Frankie was elected freshman class president, and according to Stanton, “got a little cocky!”
No one wanted to run against him sophomore year. But their English teacher suggested that Stanton take him on for junior class president—which he did.
“He beat me,” Frankie says.
For senior year, the two reached a deal. In addition to co-captaining the football team, Stanton was elected senior class president, and Frankie was student government president, where he got his first taste of fundraising.
“Frankie came up with a great fundraising idea, ‘Kiss the Pig,’” Stanton says. “He got four teachers to agree to be nominated—the ‘winner’ would have to kiss a live pig.”
Students voted by putting money in one of four jars, one for each teacher. The teacher with the most money had the honor of smooching Porky. Of course, that meant Frankie had to come up with the pig.
“That was fun, just going around to different farmers and asking if they had a pig I could borrow,” Frankie says. “But I knew a lot of them, and they were really nice about it—and I did get to borrow a pig.”
Senior year also brought college to their attention. Frankie toured Rhodes early on, encouraged by the football coach, and was sold immediately. Stanton took a bit more persuasion.
“I really didn’t know that much about Memphis in general, to be honest,” says Stanton. “I had been to the zoo, and that’s about it.”
After a tour of campus, an offer from the Rhodes football program, and a little push from Frankie, Stanton declared for Rhodes too. The 2010 high school grads roomed together their freshman year, and started playing ball together again . . . for about two weeks.
“It took me less time than that to realize that I didn’t really want to play football anymore,” says Frankie. “I only lasted two weeks because of Stanton. It was a difficult decision, but the right one for me in the long run.”
Stanton recalls that the transition to college life as a whole was difficult. The workload was heavier than what they were used to, and the culture was far different from Millington Central. Plus, he was trying to find ways to immerse himself at Rhodes in ways other than football.
“I would tell someone at Rhodes that I was a football player—their response was always, ‘ . . . aaannd??’ ” he says.
The two set out to collect the “ands” to add to their education. Both joined fraternities and ended up in leadership roles. Frankie served as the recruitment and philanthropy chairs for Sigma Nu, while Stanton pledged Alpha Tau Omega, where he served as chaplain and vice president.
A participant of Rhodes’ Bonner Scholarship program, Frankie interned for Memphis-based BRIDGES, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and equipping high school and middle school students to take community leadership roles. He and Stanton worked together the summer after their first-year, and it was during the course of that summer that the two had the first of many conversations about getting involved in their hometown of Millington.
Both were disheartened by an ongoing criminal investigation into local government corruption and an official misconduct probe into the mayor’s office. They had attended board meetings and realized that they didn’t know a single person on the board. Their interest in getting involved escalated as the incumbent Millington mayor was indicted on two counts of bribery.
“We actually encouraged our dads to run for office,” Frankie says. “They didn’t want to, so eventually Stanton and I jointly made the decision that I would run.”
With Stanton at his back, 19-year-old Frankie started an improbable campaign to become a Millington city alderman. They began by putting together a campaign team comprised of college-aged young adults, with Stanton as treasurer. Frankie filed his petition to run in April, and the team began going house-to-house to meet the voters and talk about the issues they faced. Determined to run a positive campaign, they focused on motivating and registering young people to vote. Stanton organized a pool party, the team got the word out via Facebook and other social media, and the buzz began to grow. So much so that the then-current administration attempted to change the rules to make 21 the minimum age to hold office. The proposal was quickly removed after public outcry.
In August 2012, Frankie Dakin became the youngest alderman ever elected in the city of Millington, winning by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. At the time, he was the youngest elected official in the state of Tennessee. The same year, the citizens of Millington elected the first African American, the first Asian American, and the second woman to serve on the board.
Next began the task of balancing his course load with his civic duties.
“Everyone at Rhodes was awesome and supportive,” says Frankie. “I got all the help I needed to succeed both on campus and as an alderman.”
“Rhodes taught us to be prepared, to be well rounded, and to step out of our comfort zone,” Stanton agrees. “We not only learned the importance of improving the world around us, we were given the skill set to make a difference.”
Stanton graduated in May 2014 in business and commerce. He started working with Shoemaker Financial as a financial advisor after graduation.
“I was attracted to the job because I like to work with people and help them reach their personal goals,” he says. “I’m also happy for the opportunity to practice what I preach with my own finances and hopefully become a valuable resource to my family.”
Currently a relationship manager in business banking with First Tennessee, Stanton builds long-term relationships with his clients to help them maximize their revenue growth and improve their asset quality. It was a move, he says, from advising individuals to advising business owners, but the meeting new people and helping their businesses grow is still the most fulfilling aspect of his job.
Frankie graduated in December 2014 with a degree in political economy and public policy. Postponing his original plans for postgraduate studies, he began work as a paralegal—but not before he had an important interview with New Memphis Institute.
New Memphis is a nonprofit organization that actively works to create the leadership the city needs. Through a range of programs, the institute focuses on attracting, developing, activating, and retaining talent—from newcomers to seasoned professionals. Frankie says he was impressed with the goals and aims of the institute, even though he did not get the job he was seeking at the time. Six months later, New Memphis called him and he began his job as manager of strategic partnerships, in charge of programs for city newcomers and building relationships with other organizations to bring and keep talent in Memphis. He balances his work in the downtown office with his ongoing duties in Millington. He was re-elected as alderman in 2016 with 73 percent of the vote, Stanton again serving as campaign treasurer.
Frankie’s job includes heading up The Summer Experience, a series of free events held each June and July designed to educate, empower, and entertain primarily college and graduate students. A popular component is “Instant Memphian,” which has drawn crowds that include some city old-timers and garnered positive coverage in the local press. The hosts are Frankie and Stanton.
In fact, the friends are becoming known as “the duo that does Instant Memphian,” says Frankie. A fast-paced, fun presentation of useful—and sometimes strange—information, the up-tempo discussion of all things Memphis provides a list of 102 things every local should know. Topics range from A (“Avoid Germantown Parkway at rush hour”) to Z (Visit the Memphis Zoo).
"The more I get connected to Memphis and the surrounding area, the more I want to be involved and engaged in the community," says Frankie. “I’m passionate about intersecting education, civic engagement, and economic development in the city. I’m thankful that New Memphis gives me a platform to turn my passion into something truly useful.”
Stanton finds both a personal satisfaction in his volunteer work with New Memphis, and a way to be an agent for positive change in the city. “I believe that if you notice an issue and you want to change it, you have to be the change instead of waiting for someone else to step in,” he says. “I hope I am doing my part to move Memphis in the right direction because it is home, and I want everyone that visits to see the city in the same light as I do, if not better.”
What’s next for the two?
“I’m not sure, but we are continually thinking of new stuff,” says Frankie.
“Yeah, we’re not done yet,” says Stanton.
Whatever it is, you can be sure they will have each other’s backs while they are doing it!
By Gaye Swan