Franklin McCain Dead, ‘Greensboro Four’ Member, Civil Rights Hero [Video]

Franklin McCain, 72, has passed away. McCain, considered to be one of North Carolina’s civil rights leaders, was part of a group of four NC A&T freshman that participated in a “sit in” at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro. They would eventually become known as the “Greensboro Four.”

Franklin McCain passed away on Thursday at Moses Cone Hospital after a quick battle with a brief illness; his death was somewhat unexpected. He was a 1964 graduate of NC A&T who went on to receive an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater for his role in the civil rights movement. His undergraduate degree was in chemistry and biology.

Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond were all attending NC A&T together at the height of the Civil Rights movement in 1960. Hoping to get involved in the movement and make a statement, on February 1 the “Greensboro Four” walked into the popular Woolworth’s lunch diner and sat down. In 1960, Woolworth’s refused service to blacks. These men took a serious risk when you consider the danger that such actions caused the African American community at the time. That Woolworth’s is now the site of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

Police eventually showed up to ask the young men to move but, without provocation, there was no cause to arrest them. A local business owner had already alerted the media, and suddenly news of the Greensboro four spread like wildfire. Though they were not served, the men sat there until the store closed. It was only a matter of weeks until dining establishments across the country began to change their policies.

“The Aggie family mourns the loss of Dr. Franklin McCain. His contributions to this university, the city of Greensboro and the nation as a civil rights leader is without measure,” Harold L. Martin Sr., the chancellor of A&T, said this morning in a news release. “His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of Aggies and friends throughout the world.”

His passing comes just one day after the death of famous African American activist and poet Amiri Baraka. Their stories and more like them are sure to be retold in the coming years as many of the Civil Rights movement leaders are getting older and will be facing the end of their lives in coming years.