Franklin McCain

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The A&T Four Statue represents the four A&T freshmen that helped spark the civil rights movement in the South. Ezell Blair (Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, and David Richmond.

Franklin Eugene McCain (January 3, 1941 – January 9, 2014) was an American civil rights activist and member of the Greensboro Four. McCain and three other North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) freshman students - Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond - staged a sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960, to protest the store's policy, which refused to serve African American customers.[1] The four sat at the lunch counter and were refused service by staff.[1] McCain and his friends remained at the counter until Woolworth's closed at the end of the day.[1] Their actions are credited with launching the Greensboro sit-ins, a peaceful protest movement which led to the Woolworth department store chain reversing its policy of racial segregation in the American South.[1][2][3]

McCain was born in Union County, North Carolina, on January 3, 1941.[4] He attended James B. Dudley High School in Greenboro for one year, but moved with his family to Northeast, Washington, D.C..[3][4] McCain graduated from Eastern High School in Washington D.C. in 1959.[3]

McCain enrolled at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T) during the Fall 1959 semester, just months before joining three other freshman to stage the Greensboro Four sit-in at Woolworth's in February 1960.[4] According to Jibreel Khazan, "Frank [McCain] would say we didn't want to set the world on fire, we just wanted to sit down and eat like everybody else. We wanted to be included in the round table of humanity."[4] The section of the lunch counter where the four sat is now preserved at the National Museum of American History.[4]

Franklin McCain received bachelor's degrees in both biology and chemistry from A&T in 1964.[4] He moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked at the Celanese Corporation, a chemical manufacturer, for thirty-five years, and remained actively involved with the local community.[4] In a 2014 interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, Joseph McNeil, one of two surviving sit-in members, noted that "He [McCain] was not one dimensional by any means...He led a full and productive life. He and his wife Bettye raised three boys...He was loved and respected by his community, the Charlotte community. He played a key role in North Carolina’s educational system. But Frank McCain was a man who believed in the dignity of mankind and he spent his life trying to make the world a better place for not just his offspring, but all of us."[4]

McCain was a member of the board of trustees for both North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and North Carolina Central University, as well as the Board of Visitors of Bennett College.[4] He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina until 2013.[4]

McCain died from respiratory complications at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the age of 73.[2][4] He was survived by three sons: Franklin McCain Jr., Wendell McCain, and Bert McCain; six grandchildren; and three sisters: Pecolia Davis, Warner Copeland, and Ishtor Green.[3] His late wife, Bettye Davis McCain, had died on January 2, 2013.[4]

McCain's death left just two surviving members of the Greensboro Four: Ezell Blair, now known as Jibreel Khazan, and Joseph McNeil.[4] David Richmond, who was McCain's freshman college roommate, died in 1990.[3][4] Khazan told the Winston-Salem Journal, "My brother is gone."[4]