Franklin Eugene McCain was born in Union County, North Carolina, in 1942, and raised in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Eastern High School in 1959 and attended North Carolina A&T State University. McCain and three other A&T freshmen, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” are credited with initiating the sit-in movement when they sat down at the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro on February 1, 1960 and requested service. McCain also participated in the negotiations between the student protestors, Woolworth’s management, and the Human Relations Commission.
In 1964, McCain graduated from A&T with a degree in chemistry and biology. The following year he married Bettye Davis, a Bennett College alumna and fellow participant in the Greensboro civil rights demonstrations. He also began work for the Celanese Corporation in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked for almost 35 years.
McCain remained involved in numerous civic activities and community organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which he served as chair of the North Carolina regional committee. He has also served on the boards of both Bennett College and North Carolina Central University. McCain received an honorary doctorate from North Carolina A&T State University in 1994 for his contribution to the civil rights movement.