Herman Cain, who died this week from COVID-19, will be remembered as an effective business leader and for the positive image he loaned the Republican Party. Additionally, he was a driven, effective role model and spokesperson for Black Americans because he usually attracted attention for the right reasons.
Cain died Thursday at age 74. It’s unknown where he became infected with coronavirus, but he had appeared at the June 20 Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and wasn’t wearing a mask.
Cain cut his teeth as a businessman in Omaha, where he had been sent to turn around the struggling Godfather’s Pizza chain. It was a long shot proposition, but Cain was successful, just as he had been in 2006 in surviving stage 4 colon cancer that spread to his liver. Doctors gave him a 30% chance to live, but he was declared cancer-free in 2007.
Kearneyites were introduced to Cain early in his rise to fame when he was the keynote speaker at the 1995 Freedom Awards banquet. When Cain spoke in Kearney, he was a pizza maker, not a politician; however, everyone who heard his booming voice and experienced his conviction and humor knew that he could someday make national headlines.
Cain tipped his hat to the Freedom Awards’ outstanding volunteers. He called them the unsung heroes of the community. “They have come to the realization that success is how many people you touch with what you do,” Cain said.
As we noted earlier, Cain usually attracted attention for the right reasons. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he gained traction among Republican primary voters by proposing a 9-9-9 tax plan that would have reduced virtually all income, corporate and national sales taxes to a standard rate of 9%.
However, Cain struggled during the campaign to address accusations he had sexually harassed several women. He denied the accusations, but dropped out of the race, saying he loved his family too much to subject them to the political storm.
Cain’s withdrawal didn’t follow the usual pattern of men caught in such uncomfortable positions. Too often they decide to contest the accusations, but most ultimately are brought down by their pride.
Cain preserved some respectability by withdrawing, and he remained a force among Republicans, proving the power of humility and restraint, both traits that seem in short supply in today’s politics.
The 2012 campaign isn’t the only time Cain faced scrutiny. Some critics said he wasn’t the driving force behind the Godfather’s turnaround.
To those detractors Cain said, “I have to tell them that there’s more between these ears than pepperoni and pizza sauce.”