Frank Wright Manly, like most of his fellow family members, never officially retired from Manly Steel.

“I think you go to work at Manly’s the day after you’re born and you stay there until the day after you die,” his wife of 56 years, Jean Manly said. “It’s kind of a long-term affection.”

Frank Manly, who passed away Thursday, was the longest-living employee of the company believed to be Whitfield County’s oldest manufacturing business, having been founded in 1888. He was 82, spending 58 of those years at Manly Steel.

Manly Steel still operates a plant in the Dalton Industrial Park off South Hamilton Street employing 25 workers — many of whom are third and fourth generation and have worked there for 40-plus years. The company, known for years as Manly Jail Works, now focuses on small, custom products.

Each employee at Manly Steel has a specific expertise. Frank Manly’s was jail building, said Judson Manly, his first cousin who still works at the company.

“We gradually shifted to making equipment for the local industry and ended up changing the name,” said Judson Manly, a 56-year veteran of Manly Steel. “We’re currently not doing much jail work at all, but that was Frank’s expertise.”

David Crump, who has worked at Manly Steel for 46 years as a sales engineer and plan drafter, spent years working closely with Frank Manly.

“He did all of the jail work jobs, quoting them and getting them out,” Crump said. “He was a very nice man. He had to be for me to work here for so long.”

Frank Manly was a graduate of Georgia Tech and a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served in World War II with the 407th Combat Engineers in France. He was a member of the Dalton Noon Rotary Club since 1964.

Jean Manly said her husband reserved Saturday afternoons in the fall for Georgia Tech football, a ritual he and his family followed almost religiously.

“There is a priority, and I’m not sure where everything comes, between church, Rotary Club, golf, Tech and square dancing. I don’t really know if family comes in there everywhere,” she said with a laugh. “There are these upper echelon things that are almost sacred.”

Judson Manly remembered Frank Manly for his affinity for the golf course.

“He was an avid golfer, but he was also a good one,” Judson Manly said. “He had one of these sweet swings, a classic swing.”

Manly Steel began 118 years ago in Dalton when cousins Frank and Robert Manly moved to the city from Philadelphia and founded Manly Manufacturing Co. Since then, the family has worked in either the wrought iron or steel business locally. In 1891 the company built a second building off Morris Street next to the railroad. Work began on the company’s first jail — the Catoosa County Jail — in 1905, and in 1906 Manly Jail Works was officially formed. In 1914 the company moved to the building on Glenwood that still bears the Manly Jail Works name.

Services for Frank Manly are today at 11 a.m. at the Dalton First United Methodist Church. Burial will be in West Hill Cemetery.

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