Friends, family, university presidents and politicians gathered for the funeral of civil rights pioneer Franklin McCain Friday afternoon at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. McCain was one of four African-American college students who sat down at an all-white lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960 that helped spur sit-ins across the country.
Politicians like Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who spoke at the funeral, said McCain never had political ambitions, but he was a great mentor and advisor to them. He was also an inspiration to everyday people in the Charlotte community like Fred Leon Tatum, the owner of a tire company in East Charlotte.
"I came to the funeral service because I'm indebted to all of the martyrs before me who sit down so that we might be able to stand up," Tatum says. "I came up in the sixties, saw the segregated counters, the segregated housing and all. So I'm a witness of what happened then and now."
Tatum never met him, but he says McCain's action motivated him to sit-in at local Woolworth's and Holiday Inns in 1962. McCain died last week at age 73. Speakers at the funeral included Reverend Jesse Jackson, Senator Kay Hagan, UNC president Thomas Ross. Two surviving members of the Greensboro Four, Jibreel Khazan and Joseph McNeil, also spoke. He will be buried in Oak Lawn Park Cemetery.