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Herman Cain (1945–2020), 2012 Republican presidential candidate

by Linnea Crowther

Herman Cain was a business executive best known for seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Business success

Cain established himself as a strong business leader in his 30s by turning around slumping sales at a large group of Burger King restaurants in the Philadelphia area. Promoted to president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, he again prompted an uptick in profitability, in part by closing stores and eliminating positions. Cain became chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City in 1994, then served as CEO of the National Restaurant Association from 1996 to 1999. Cain later wrote a syndicated column, hosted a talk radio show, and contributed to Fox News.

Presidential bid

Cain got a taste of politics while he served as CEO of the National Restaurant Association, where he led a powerful lobbying organization and helped take down President Bill Clinton’s health care plan. He later served as a senior economic advisor to Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Cain first ran for president in 2000, though his campaign was short-lived. In 2004, he ran for U.S. Senate in Georgia, though he did not win the primary. After aligning himself with the emerging Tea Party, Cain launched a bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in 2011. He gained early support and came out on top of several straw polls, but his campaign was derailed by several accusations of sexual harassment and adultery. Cain denied the allegations, but they brought an end to his campaign.


Cain on growing up during segregation

“One very hot day when he and I were out with Mom, we got very thirsty and started to walk over to a public water fountain. Mom reminded us that we must use the ‘coloreds’ fountain. Being somewhat rambunctious, however, we made sure no one was watching us, and then we drank, first from the forbidden ‘whites only’ fountain, and after that from the ‘coloreds’ fountain. Then we looked at each other and said, ‘You know what? The “whites only” water tastes just the same as the “coloreds” does!’” —from Cain’s 2011 book, “This is Herman Cain!: My Journey to the White House”

What people said about him

Full obituary: USA Today

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