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Our History: Featured Alumni: Francke, J. Michael, 1971

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, congressmen, ambassadors, educators, businessmen and women, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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James Michael Francke

Director of Corrections for New Mexico and for Oregon

J. Michael Francke was born in 1946. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, he attended New Mexico Highlands University on a football scholarship, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in a combined major of political science, economics, German, and French. He then attended the University of Virginia School of Law on an academic scholarship, graduating with a law degree in 1971, and was subsequently admitted to the Virginia bar. For the next three years he served as a judge advocate general in the United States Navy, at Long Beach Naval Station.

In 1975, he was admitted to the bar in New Mexico, and worked as an assistant attorney general and counsel to the state Department of Corrections. He served in this capacity until 1980, when he became a judge for the First District Court in Santa Fe. He served as a judge for three years, and in 1983 became the director of the New Mexico Department of Corrections. While serving in this capacity, he was credited with reforming New Mexico's prison system. In May 1987, Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt hired Francke to fill the corresponding position in Oregon as director of corrections.  

On January 18, 1989, his body was discovered outside the department's office building in Salem, and an autopsy determined he had been murdered the night before. A local petty criminal was eventually tried and convicted for the crime, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, the convicted killer maintains his innocence, and several conspiracy theories have been suggested around Francke's death. The 1995 film Without Evidence was based on the Francke murder and subsequent investigations. The Association of State Correctional Administrators annually awards the Michael Francke Award to the top corrections administrator in the United States. 

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