Edward Francell was born into a secular Jewish family in Paris in 1934, but his mother was descended from an old Jewish family based in Columbus, Georgia. After the Nazis came to power in Germany, Francell and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles. At school Francell participated in fundraisers for refugees fleeing Europe. Francell graduated from Columbia University in 1956. As a college student, he began to learn more about his Jewish identity, and about his family members, some who survived, and some who perished in the Holocaust. His aunt, Yvonne Redgis, a former ballet dancer, survived imprisonment in Auschwitz and eventually joined him and his family in California.
After retiring from the Kimberly Clark Corporation, Francell now lives in Dunwoody, Georgia. He recorded his oral history interview at Kennesaw State University in July 2014.