Here is what I wrote shortly after the death of Herman Cain:

By now, many of you have heard about the heartbreaking loss of my former boss Herman Cain who died from complications associated with COVID-19. Some have predictably used it as an opportunity to score political points, unconcerned with the hurt so many people are facing right now.

While I hadn’t worked for Herman in a few years, my life is forever tied to his, as I worked as the communications director and spokeswoman for his presidential campaign for more than a year. I’ll never know why he elected to hire a 23-year-old practically straight out of college to lead the communications effort a presidential campaign that became, even for a month or two, a front-running GOP primary contender.

It’s hard to put into words how chaotic that experience was. A presidential campaign always is. Then throw in the fact that he was the definition of a political outsider, and voilà. Madness.

But, Herman really just was the best. He was warm, funny and kind. He was the definition of a “happy warrior” who faced each day with a positive attitude and the kind of optimism we could all use right about now. He saw meaning in so many small things – significance in things others wouldn’t notice or slow down to see.

And he was absolutely brilliant. Forget the caricature you’ve come to know from political life. I know who he was – a Morehouse man, a mathematician, a computer scientist, a rocket scientist (really!), a business tycoon, ‘the turnaround artist’ who saved so many jobs by saving companies, the treasured friend to Jack Kemp, a father/brother/grandfather… I could go on and on.

He was the product of the segregated south, a man whose father worked three jobs to survive and a mother who was a domestic worker (NEVER “a maid”). He grew up in a three room house until his parents could afford more, and before he and his brother were given the luxury of bedrooms, they used to fight over who would get to sleep on the cot or who had to sleep on the floor. It is a level of poverty and discrimination few alive can ever understand.

Oh, and he survived stage IV liver and colon cancer, too.

Not a single detractor could hold a candle to Herman’s intellect, professional achievements or resolve. In the scope of his tremendous life, politics was but a small thing.

But, for me, his choice to pursue public service was everything. It changed my life forever. Every opportunity I’ve had since working for him can be traced directly back to the fact that he gave me a chance. So many friends I have, both on the campaign and off, come from that time and from the tremendous opportunity working for him provided me. I’ll say it again: everything I have professionally is because of him.

May he have his eternal reward. RIP Herman.


Ellen Carmichael is the president of The Lafayette Company, a Washington, D.C.-based political communication firm. She manages Legal Insurrection’s public relations.


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