A Legacy of Courage: Memorial Service for Dr. Franklin Eugene McCain, Sr.
January 3, 1941 – January 9, 2014
Yesterday I had the great privilege to attend a magnificent service of gratitude and farewell given by North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC, in honor and memory of one of its greatest heroes, Dr. Franklin Eugene McCain, Senior. A member of the graduating class of 1964, Dr. McCain took a walk downtown on February 1, 1960, with his three dear friends, Ezell Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond, a walk which would change the world. They were freshmen at the university, and their destination was the F.W. Woolworth Store on Elm Street, where they took seats at the whites-only lunch counter, launching the sit-in movement and inspiring countless others to stand up, speak up, and demand justice over the 54 years since that day. Dr. McCain loved the University, and the University loved him right back, as did a host of family, friends, colleagues, and strangers, around the world, throughout his long and exemplary life, and now beyond his presence here on this earth.
Musical performances by the North Carolina A&T Fellowship Gospel Choir throughout the service lifted our hearts and helped to transform our grief into gratitude and wonder. Mr. Ron Jones directs this magnificent choir.
The stage was filled with speakers, whose tributes and commentary brought Dr. McCain’s spirit and spirit to the occasion, with frequent bursts of laughter and sweet remembrance.
One highlight was this portion of the program, when two of Dr. McCain’s three sons, Wendell and Franklin Jr., came to the stage to remember their father. Transcription of his remarks appears below.
After the service, Major General Joseph McNeil, lifelong friend and fellow member of the Greensboro Four, spoke with a gentleman from WFMY Television in Greensboro. Eight television crews filled one side of the auditorium, across from the choir, demonstrating the historic importance of the life and work of Dr. Franklin Eugene McCain, Sr., and the love and respect which surrounded him throughout his life. Here is a page from the Memorial Service program:
Transcript of remarks by Mr. Franklin Eugene McCain, Junior
January 16th, 2014 in Greensboro, NC
“My father always put emphasis on the “Mac”: MAC-Cain!
It’s a hard, hard day.
I’m Franklin McCain, Junior, speaking today. Wendell will speak tomorrow (at the funeral services in Charlotte, NC January 17th, 2014. Mr. McCain called his brother Wendell to come up on stage and stand with him as he spoke, and they teased each other about whose job was harder and so forth, in a heartwarming exchange for those of us in the audience).
Daddy loved the students. He believed young people have a lot to offer, and deserve to be listened to.
When I was a freshman here in 1983, we had a “Night at the Appollo” in this auditorium. You may know it : a talent competition where you sing a song and they clap or boo — I never thought I would get back up on this stage again….
We are honored and grateful (to the university) that you allowed us to bring our Daddy home. He loved no other place better than North Carolina A & T State University. It is in our bloodline.
Now who was our Daddy?He was a man of intelligence; of integrity; of character; of courage. He liked nice things. He liked things to be in proper order. Thus we are Presbyterians! (laughter). He was a jokester. He was a phenomenal being.
He was a masterful negotiator. He would study the issue whole; and then little by little. His last negotiation was with our Heavenly Father, at the hospital here in Greensboro. We moved him to Moses Cone Hospital here in Greensboro (from his home in Charlotte) so we could be near him. I went by to visit him three times a day. He was very glad to be here in Greensboro; to have his family and friends around.
Three weeks ago, he had stopped talking. After work one evening recently, I stayed with him until 8:15 p.m., when my wife, Vicky, came in. I said, “I’m going to go home early; you stay here…” and I went home. A little while later, I got a text from my wife: “Big Daddy wants to talk to you!”
Well, he had stopped talking three weeks ago. I texted back: “Tell him I will be there at 10 p.m.” Later on I went back, and I got there at 10 p.m. My wife said that Daddy had been talking to her, and he had said that I was “…never on time…”. Now when I got there, he was not talking. Our friend Phyllis, said that he had indeed spoken, and that he had asked for me.
When I had been back with him for one hour, he put his hand up, and he summoned us to the bed. And he was BACK: he was back, just like always. He said: “I got to the Pearly Gates and I met the Lord, and Miss Tooty (his beloved wife Bettye McCain, who passed on in January of 2013). They told me it’s not my time. I have to go back. I have things to share with the family. Listen to me carefully: I am about to check out!”
“What do you mean, Daddy?” I asked.
“I am going to DIE! I want you to live as a testimony. My life has been a testimony! There are things I want you to tell the family.”
He told us that he was okay with leaving, and that our Mother had sent him back to be sure that we were ready. “I want to know that you are okay with my leaving. I want you to be supportive, and to take care of each other.” He gave us a list of 20 things to do, and he gave us time to prepare. So when that day came, January 9th, at 10:26 p.m., one year and seven days after our mother, we knew he would be okay.
For our Mother’s obituary, he included a poem: ‘When Tomorrow Starts Without Me’. “
Mr. Franklin McCain, Jr.’s remarks concluded here, and the memorial service continued with a beautiful, moving and inspiring video, produced by NC A&T State University, honoring Dr. McCain’s life and legacy. Here is the poem which meant so much to Dr. McCain and to his family.
When Tomorrow Starts Without Me
by David M. Romano
When tomorrow starts without me,
And I’m not there to see, If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me,
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry The way you did today, While thinking of the many things, We didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me, As much as I love you, and each time that you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me, Please try to understand, That an angel came and called my name, And took me by the hand, and said my place was ready, In heaven far above, And that I’d have to leave behind All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away, A tear fell from my eye For all my life, I’d always thought, I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for, So much left yet to do, It seemed almost impossible, That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays The good ones and the bad, I thought of all the love we shared, and all the fun we had
If I could re-live yesterday Just even for a while, I’d say good-bye and kiss you And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized, That this could never be, For emptiness and memories, would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things, I might miss come tomorrow, I thought of you, and when I did, My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven’s gates, I felt so much at home When God looked down and smiled at me, From His great golden throne.
He said, “This is eternity, And all I’ve promised you.” Today your life on earth is past, But here life starts anew
I promise no tomorrow, But today will always last, And since each day’s the same way There’s no longing for the past.
You have been so faithful, So trusting and so true. Though there were times You did some things You knew you shouldn’t do.
But you have been forgiven And now at last you’re free. So won’t you come and take my hand And share my life with me?
So when tomorrow starts without me, Don’t think we’re far apart, For every time you think of me, I’m right here, in your heart.
Funeral services take place today in Charlotte NC, where he spent his life with his beloved wife Bettye, who preceded him in death, one year ago.