By Steve Lyttle
Franklin McCain Sr., a member of the Greensboro Four that helped spark the civil rights movement in the United States, has died, family members say.
McCain, who was 71 and a Union County native, died late Thursday night in Greensboro after a brief illness, according to a news release issued by the family.
On Feb. 1, 1960, McCain and three other students from North Carolina A&T State University sat down and requested service at a whites-only counter at the F.W. Woolworth store on Elm Street in Greensboro. The next day, about two dozen students joined them.
And within a month, the sit-in movement had spread to hundreds of cities across the United States.
McCain went on to graduate from N.C. A&T with degrees in chemistry and biology and worked for nearly 35 years as a chemist and sales representative at the Celanese Corporation in Charlotte. But he also remained active in civil rights efforts.
""To the world, he was a civil rights pioneer who, along with his three classmates, dared to make a difference by starting the sit-in movement at the F.W. Woolworth store here in Greensboro,"" McCain's oldest son, Franklin Jr., said Friday.
""To us, he was Daddy – a man who deeply loved his family and cherished his friends. We will forever treasure the wonderful memories that we have and be thankful for all that he did for us and for his fellow man.""
A portion of the lunch counter from the Woolworth store is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington. And the site of the store in Greensboro is now occupied by the International Civil Rights Museum.
Published in Charlotte Observer from Jan. 10 to Jan. 11, 2014