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Franklin Eugene McCain, Sr., 73 years old, of Charlotte, NC, moved onto Glory after a short illness, complications of pneumonia, at the Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC. He peacefully left us on the evening of January 9, 2014. Born on Jan. 3, 1941, in Union County, N.C., he grew up in, Washington, D.C., where his businessman father and homemaker mother provided a comfortable home. In 1955, when he was 14, he was horrified by the murder of Emmett Till, also 14, who had been mutilated, shot and dumped in Mississippi's Tallahatchie River after being accused of flirting with a white woman. Emmett Till never had a chance. My young mind would never let me accept that or forget it," McCain told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2005.He attended Dudley High School in Greensboro for a year, then graduated from Eastern High School, Washington, D.C.. In the fall of 1959, he enrolled at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, where he studied chemistry and biology. The three students who became his best friends were Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond and Joseph McNeil. They all lived in the same dormitory and studied together every night. Instead of being "armchair activists," they decided to challenge the system.
The sit-in was not an original idea; black protesters in other states had tried the tactic sporadically in the late 1950s, to little effect. There was no reason to believe that the Greensboro Four would make a difference.
When teenager Franklin McCain decided to make a stand against segregation at the F.W. Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960, two thoughts weighed on him.
"If I were lucky, I would go to jail for a long, long time. If I were not quite so lucky," he recalled to a reporter five decades later, "I would come back to my campus … in a pine box."He and the three close friends who joined him that day were not arrested — at least not that time. Nor did white Greensboro react violently to their "sit-in," although threats poured in.
The four college freshmen made a few purchases — McCain bought toothpaste and a composition book — and then approached the lunch counter, armed with the receipts that proved their money had been acceptable elsewhere in the store.
They sat down and ordered coffee, but a white waitress told them to leave. A black woman working behind the counter called them troublemakers and pointed them toward the counter where black customers were allowed to stand, but the young men did not budge. They left at closing time without being served.
At one point a white policeman had come in, slapping his nightstick in his hand.Another chilling moment came when an elderly white woman got up from her seat and placed one hand on McCain's shoulder and the other on McNeil's. McCain steeled himself for a barrage of racial epithets, or worse. Instead, she told them she was proud of them and that she regretted they hadn't taken their stand sooner.
The next day they returned with nearly two dozen other students. The numbers grew through the week, with 1,000 students marching through downtown Greensboro by the fifth day.In Greensboro, success came on July 25, 1960, when Woolworth's served four of its black employees at the lunch counter.
The actions of the "Greensboro Four," as McCain and his friends were later called, were soon emulated by thousands of youthful activists across the South, most notably in Nashville, where a disciplined corps of students turned the sit-in into a model of nonviolent protest for the 1960s and beyond.
Mr. McCain's death left just two surviving members of the Greensboro Four: Ezell Blair, now known as Jibreel Khazan, and Joseph McNeil. David Richmond, who was McCain's freshman college roommate, died in 1990. Khazan told the Winston-Salem Journal, "My brother is gone."
Mr. McCain graduated from North Carolina A&T in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology, and for almost 35 years worked as a chemist and sales representative for the Hoechst Celanese Corporation in Charlotte, N.C. He went on to earn a master's degree from A&T, studied polymer chemistry/fiber science at N.C. State University, earned a certificate in management science at Princeton University and received training in executive development at Farr Associates and motivational management at American Management Association. He – along with the other A&T Four – later received an honorary doctorate of humanities from A&T.
While in Charlotte, he continued to be involved with civic and community organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the Bond Campaign for Mecklenburg, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, board of visitors at Bennett College for Women, the Board of Governors of the North Carolina University System, the Board of Trustees of NC A&T State University and North Carolina Central University and numerous others organizations that were champions of young people, education and advocacy for the under-represented. He was an elder at Memorial Presbyterian Church. In 1994, McCain received an honorary doctorate from NC A&T State University for his contributions to the civil rights movement. Mr. McCain received numerous awards and commendations, including the U.S. Congressional Citation Award; N.C.'s Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award ; NAACP Achievement Award; and a proclamation and historic marker from the City of Greensboro. He continued to work for social justice. He traveled the country giving talks about the "the power in one and the few" to change the course of history. "Never ask for permission to start a revolution," he told college students in Ohio a few years ago. "If there is something you want or need to do … just do it."
On June 20, 1964, he married his Bennett College sweetheart and fellow sit-in participant, the former Bettye Davis. She exchanged her earthly body for her heavenly crown on January 2,2013.
Mr. McCain is survived by three sons and six grandchildren. The sons: Franklin E. McCain Jr. (Vicki), Wendell McCain (Lori) and Bert McCain (Keisha). The six grandchildren: Taylor Davis, Franklin "Mac" III, Davis Alan, Charles Alan, Alayna Martha Jean, and Amanda Rose McCain. His sisters include Warner M. Copeland, Pecolia Davis and Ishtor Green and a host of extended family and friends.
There will be a memorial service held in Harrison Auditorium on the campus of NC A&T State University in Greensboro, NC on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. On Friday, January 17, 2014, the funeral service will commence at 2:00 p.m. at Friendship Baptist Church, 3400 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, NC. Visitation for the service will be held from 12:00p.m-2:00p.m. The interment will be at Oaklawn Cemetery. The funeral will be officiated by Reverend Doctor Edward Newberry and the funeral arrangements are being coordinated by Alexander Funeral Home, Inc. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Franklin E. McCain Sr. Family Scholarship Fund at North Carolina A&T State University, 200 N. Benbow Rd., Greensboro, N.C. 27411.
This bio was composed from information from many news articles and obituaries about Mr. McCain.
Bettye Davis McCain
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