We first met Herman Cain in the Spring of 1989. We were attending a business group meeting – International Frontiers in Omaha, Nebraska. He was putting the final touches on his illustrious career while we were seeking examples to begin adding “notches” onto my resume. This guy mesmerized us and everyone attending the session. From that point on he became the perfect role model for aggressive and committed people like us. In our long search for economic models for the Black population, he laid it out. “What our people need isself-sufficiency”. “We go nowhere being broke and without purpose. Stay committed and God will show us the way”.
July 30, 2020 was going to be a sad day. The Hero of the Voting Rights Act, Congressman John Lewis, was going to be laid to rest – starting at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. As we drove home to view the session on the widescreen suddenly “Breaking News”: “Business leader Herman Cain has just died after a fight with the Covid-19 virus.”
We don’t know how Herman caught the virus. We know he attended a republican rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma (it was noticeable that he wore no mask while attending nor did the people sitting near him). But his staff said that he also travelled to Arizona about the same time as the rally. Arizona was experiencing a spike in cases of Covid-19. We knew he was ill but had hopes that this husky example of health would pull him through the challenge. He had whipped stage 4 cancer earlier in his life.
Please look at Herman’s biographer’s take on this brilliant person: “Herman was born in Memphis, Tennessee on December 13, 1945, and soon moved to Atlanta where he grew up in poverty and spent much of his childhood on his grandparent’s dirt farm nearby. But his parents, Luther Cain Jr. And Lenora Davis Cain, provided him with a loving and supportive environment and many valuable life lessons. They knew that their hard work was the key to achieving their American dreams and passed this on to their sons.
Herman graduated from Morehouse College in 1967 and later continued his education by earning his Master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University while working full-time as a rocket scientist, developing fire control systems for the Department of the Navy. Though Herman enjoyed using his talents as a civilian employee for the Navy, he gravitated towards business. Therefore, Mr. Cain transitioned into a business career, starting with the Coca Cola Company, and later moving to the Pillsbury Company where he became one of Pillsbury’s vice presidents. He then accepted positions as an executive with Burger King and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. His professional successes garnered the respect and admiration of industry peers who named him the President of the National Restaurant Association.
Under Herman’s administration, the group grew significantly and began to lobby for the interests of America’s restaurants and small business owners, and in 1996 Herman was presented the prestigious Horatio Alger Award. Herman was also the recipient of numerous honorary Doctorate degrees from prestigious institutions including: Morehouse College, Purdue University, Creighton University, Johnson & Whales University, University of Nebraska, and Tougaloo College among others. Through his business career he also served on the Boards of Directors for several large organizations including, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City where he served as Chairman of the Board, Whirlpool Corporation, Super Valu, National Restaurant Association, Nabisco, Aquila Corp–Utilicorp, Reader’s Digest, Hallmark Cards, AGCO Corporation and PB2 Foods, Inc.”
Thanks to Dan Calabrese for the above compilation. You can observe the celebration at http//hermancaincelebrations.com
As you can see, Herman was no sleepy type of guy. He was an example for all of us. He would lead the charge or be happy being a part of the team. All this plus a run for the U.S. Presidency. He spent more than 30 days in the hospital fighting this awful pandemic. The doctors said it was just an overwhelming task to get his lungs back into shape. Herman is dead and we are missing a giant. His service was on August 7, 2020 at his beloved Antioch Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Mr. Alford is the Cofounder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Ms. DeBow is the Cofounder, Executive Vice President at the Chamber.