CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hundreds of friends and family members gathered Friday afternoon in Charlotte to pay final respects to civil rights pioneer Franklin McCain.
The funeral was held at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and was attended by former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who is now the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson.
McCain was one of four college students from North Carolina A&T State University who, in 1960, sat down at the "whites only" lunch counter at the Woolworth's Store in Greensboro.
They weren't served that first day of their non-violent demonstration, but after five days there were nearly 1,000 people outside in the street supporting them.
That protest sparked similar sit-ins across the country and eventually contributed to the passage of the Civil Right Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
"God took these ordinary four young men and made them royalty for the service they rendered," said Reverend Jackson.
Among the mourners who filled the church was one of the two surviving members of the Greensboro Four, General Joseph McNeil.
"My heart is heavy but it is a homecoming because we are sending my brother to a better place," he said.
McNeil said the four of them had heard stories of lynchings and dogs but were not afraid when they sat down at the lunch counter.
Instead, he said, "We were angry at the system. Angry at the lies that were told."
But the protests stayed peaceful and helped set the tone of non-violence that would mark much of the civil rights movement.
Some of those who came to the funeral, were not old enough to have been around in those days but still felt it was important to com
One of those was Desirre Barney of Charlotte, who said, "I am a NC A&T alumni and just want to always honor these founding fathers of the civil rights movement."
Following the service that lasted nearly three hours, McCain was to be buried in Charlotte's Oaklawn Cemetary.