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Thomas Gallatin / July 31, 2020

Herman Cain, Trailblazer in Business and Politics, Dies at 74

He was the businessman/politician who in many ways helped pave the way for a Trump presidency.

Herman Cain, the former 2012 Republican presidential candidate and Godfather’s Pizza CEO, died Thursday after succumbing to coronavirus. He was 74. Dan Calabrese, a friend who worked with Cain for the past 15 years, announced his passing, writing, “Herman Cain — our boss, our friend, like a father to so many of us — has passed away. We all prayed so hard every day. We knew the time would come when the Lord would call him home, but we really liked having him here with us, and we held out hope he’d have a full recovery.”

Cain, who survived stage-four colon cancer in 2006, was, as Calabrese noted, “basically pretty healthy in recent years, [but] he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer.”

Cain was a highly successful businessman whose rags-to-riches history is the quintessential American story. Of his childhood, Cain noted that his family was “poor but happy,” and that perspective came from what his mother taught him — that “success was not a function of what you start out with materially, but what you start out with spiritually.” Cain’s life epitomized this truth.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Morehouse College in 1967. He earned a Master of Science from Purdue University in 1971, while working in a ballistics program for the U.S. Navy as a civilian. It was via his skills as a computer-systems analyst that he began working in the food and restaurant industry, first with The Coca-Cola Company and then at Pillsbury, where he became director of business analysis. At age 36 he was assigned to manage 400 Burger King stores in Philadelphia, a task he handled so successfully that three years later Pillsbury appointed him CEO of Godfather’s Pizza chain, a subsidiary that at the time was failing. Cain described it with typical wit: It had “one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel.” Under Cain’s leadership, the franchise turned around and he eventually bought it from Pillsbury.

In 1994, Cain first came to political prominence when his criticism of Bill Clinton’s Health Security Act helped to defeat the bill. Republican leaders were impressed by Cain and in 1995 he was appointed to the Kemp Commission on tax reform. Indeed, reforming taxes became Cain’s calling card, making him a Tea Party favorite during his 2012 presidential campaign in which he famously touted his 9-9-9 tax plan. He also ruffled feathers when he unapologetically referred to the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, as “planned genocide” of blacks. He ended his campaign after dubious sexual harassment allegations that he vehemently denied, stating, “I have never sexually harassed anyone.”

Following his presidential run, he remained politically active supporting the Republican Party and was a strong Donald Trump supporter. He co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, and was in attendance at Trump’s Tulsa rally this past June — a week prior to his coronavirus diagnosis. Trump mourned Cain’s passing, saying, “My friend Herman Cain, a Powerful Voice of Freedom and all that is good, passed away this morning. Herman had an incredible career and was adored by everyone that ever met him, especially me. He was a very special man, an American Patriot, and great friend … Herman, Rest In Peace!” Amen. Cain was indeed an American Patriot who will be greatly missed.

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