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Franklin McCain dies, helped launch protest of whites-only lunch counters in U.S

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - African-American civil rights leader Franklin McCain, who as a college student helped launch the U.S. sit-in movement against segregation at whites-only lunch counters, has died, his alma mater said on Friday.

McCain and three classmates from North Carolina A&T State University began the first of many similar peaceful protests around the country when they tried to order lunch at the F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro on February 1, 1960.

The store denied service to the four college freshmen, but they refused to leave until closing and returned in the following days with more students to sit at the lunch counter.

"We had a common outlook to change the unjust conditions in the society that was pushed forward by frustration," McCain said of the decision to begin the sit-in protests, according to a biography on the university's website.

The student demonstrations spread quickly to hundreds of other U.S. cities, and Woolworth ended its policy of serving only white customers in the summer of 1960.

McCain, who graduated in 1964 and served on the governing board for North Carolina's state university system, died in Greensboro on Thursday after a brief illness, according to a statement from North Carolina A&T.

"His contributions to this university, the city of Greensboro and the nation as a civil rights leader are without measure," said Chancellor Harold Martin Sr.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone and Phil Berlowitz)

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