OUTstanding Virginians

Clarence Cain

UVA Law School graduate whose life and death from HIV/AIDS inspired the 1993 film “Philadelphia”

Cain, Clarence B. – Clarence Cain was notable in part for the dignity with which he faced his death from HIV/AIDS and his willingness to stand up against discrimination in the mid-80’s when few if any were willing or able to do so. Fired by his law firm, he sued and, his story became the primary underpinning for the screenplay for the film “Philadelphia.” Cain was born in Newport News in a family of 10 and attended UVA. Cain was one of the first African American Resident Advisors and Senior RA. Through the summer program and his impact in residential life truly hundreds of students of all races gained the academic tools and life skills to survive and flourish in the challenging environment of UVa in the 1970s. Cain led by example and served as a mentor long before the word mentor became popular. Black, whites, minorities and women students looked to Cain for guidance while at the University of Virginia. This was a time that few African Americans were able to attend. Based in part on Cain’s dedication during those difficult years, our University thankfully now has the highest percentage of graduating African Americans in the country. Cain was believed to have been tapped as the first African American IMP. This group is one of UVa’s most prominent and philanthropic secret societies. Cain lived on the Lawn and was very involved as a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, which has always been recognized for its community service.”