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Aretha Franklin charmed everyone at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta

Aretha Franklin was among the cultural, civic, business and political leaders honored at the 2012 Trumpet Awards. She was there to accept accept the civil rights honor on behalf of her late father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin.

She was among a roster of luminaries - Earth, Wind & Fire received the lifetime achievement award and Ted Turner received the media mogul award, for example - but stood apart.

“When she was here for the Trumpet Awards everybody said, that’s the most jovial Aretha they’d known in years,” said Xernona Clayton, president and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc. and creator and executive producer of the annual event. “We all marveled.”

Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, appreciated the adulation her universal fame brought, but could sometimes use a break. 

“Sometimes she’s guarded when she’s in public,” Clayton said. At the 2012 event, she recalled, Franklin was in a happy mood.

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“She was friendly, she didn’t mind people coming over to her,” Clayton said. “She was unusually interactive when she was here for the Trumpet Awards.”

The two knew each other for years. They met through Clayton’s minister, who was close to Rev. Franklin. Aretha’s singing career started in church. Both Rev. Franklin, a towering figure during the Civil Rights movement, and his talented daughter, were famous for much of their lives but never “had an exalted feeling about their prominence,” Clayton said.

She talked with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week, amid news of Franklin’s failing health. Clayton was sad to ponder her friend’s passing but rejoiced in her legacy. Franklin used her fame and talent for social justice, and like her father was instrumental in the fight for civil rights.

“God gave us the supreme gift of life. It’s up to us to pay him back for that kindness by living a good life,” Clayton said. “When we come to the moment we’re going to be judged, Aretha can certainly say she’ll have a good reception. She did on earth what God wants us to do with our lives.”

Trumpet Awards founder Xernona Clayton says: “I’m hoping that through this program, we can continue to inspire young people to do better, to make their moments count, to make their future bright, to instill in them the need to be somebody.” JENNIFER BRETT / JBRETT@AJC.COM

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