Civil Rights heroes John Lewis, C.T. Vivian pass away
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Atlanta, GA – U.S. Rep. John Lewis and minister C.T. Vivian, both icons of the Civil Rights movement, passed away on July 17.
Lewis, 80, who represented Georgia’s fifth district since 1987, had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Vivian, 95, died due to natural causes, according to CNN.
Both knew and stood with Martin Luther King, Jr. Both received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered all flags lowered to half-staff at all city of Atlanta buildings to honor Lewis.
“There are no words to describe the tremendous loss that Americans, Atlantans, and I personally feel upon learning of the passing of Congressman John Lewis,” Bottoms said in a press release. “America knew him as a Civil Rights Icon, Congressional Giant, and a moral compass, but I knew him as a friend. The people of Atlanta often called upon Congressman Lewis for counsel, guidance, and assistance with getting into good trouble. No matter how busy his schedule, or important his Washington duties were, he answered. We were privileged to be represented by a leader with both a pure heart and an unshakable commitment to human rights. As we persevere in the modern fight for social justice, we should honor his legacy by continuing to hold on to hope. I pray for his family, his constituents, and all who loved and were impacted by the life of Congressman John Lewis.”
Lewis was considered the dean of the state’s Congressional delegation and was known for advocating “good trouble.”
The city of Atlanta provided additional information about Lewis’ life and contributions:
From his early days as a student activist, an original Freedom Rider, and a founder and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis became a symbol of perseverance and strength even as he endured physical violence and imprisonment. The sit-ins that he organized at segregated lunch counters and peaceful protests that he led, marching across the South, including “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, became a beckon of hope in the pursuit of equal rights.
As one of the Civil Rights Movement’s “Original Six,” this son of an Alabama sharecropper, at age 23, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. During that speech, he implored government leaders to wake up to the evils of segregation, closing with words that still resonate today: “We must say, ‘Wake up, America! Wake Up! For we cannot stop and we will not and cannot be patient.”
John Lewis began his political career as a member of the Atlanta City Council and was re-elected 16 times to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, where he became known as the conscience of the U.S. Congress. The City hopes his courage, sacrifice, and leadership continue to inspire the best in us and all that America has to offer.
The C.T. and Octavia Vivian Museum and Archives provided additional information about Vivian’s life and legacy:
ATLANTA, Georgia- On the morning of July 17, 2020, civil rights icon Reverend Cordy Tindell Vivian peacefully passed away at his home. C.T. Vivian will be remembered as one of the “men of movement” and an American hero who dedicated his life to the Civil Rights Movement as an advocate for non-violent action, working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and Julian Bond.”
“The family is heartbroken at the loss of our father, but proud of his life- long work to free America from its tradition of racism, hate and violence. He loved all mankind and will be missed. Rev. Vivian was preceded in death by his wife of nearly 60 years, Octavia,” said his daughter Denise Morse.
A private service will be held for family only due to COVID-19 at Providence Missionary Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Thursday July 23, 2020. The service will be live-streamed as well as broadcast on WSB. The funeral processions are being handled by Darrell E. Watkins of Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home.
Rev. Vivian was awarded the highest medal of honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama on November 20th, 2014 for his extensive work alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. where he helped lead sit-ins and other demonstrations around the country. AJC reporter Ernie Suggs described Rev. Vivian saying, “Respectability was woven into the nonviolence doctrine that Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and few practiced nonviolence as efficiently as the handsome, tall, slender and well-versed Vivian.”
Rev. Vivian’s contributions to the written word will be remembered through his amassed collection of an upwards of 6,000 volumes of African American authored and African American heritage books that uphold the African American voice in society. Rev. Vivian also founded the non-profit corporation C.T. and Octavia Vivian Museum & Archives, Inc. to provide a fund for the management of the C.T. Vivian Collection now and into the future.
The curated collection features his collection of books, numerous pieces of art, collectibles, and many of the awards given to C.T. Vivian over his lifetime. This collection, along with some of his original papers, a myriad of awards, and artwork have been donated to the National Monuments Foundation. His library will be recreated within the base of The Peace Column Museum to be located in the Rodney Cook, Sr. Park in Vine City, where his legacy will be preserved forever. Rev. Vivian also continues to inspire and empower communities whilst furthering the ongoing conversation on Civil Rights through the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute Initiative.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for contributions to be made towards the preservation of the collection as well as continuing his legacy by supporting The
C.T. and Octavia Vivian Museum & Archives, Inc. According board member George Andrews, “As we have lost another legend of the Civil Rights Movement, we would like to honor Rev. Vivian and are inviting those whose lives he has touched or who may have heard him preach to go to the website to make a donation to help preserve and keep these books and his legacy alive.” More information can be found about Rev. Vivian, his nonprofit C.T. and Octavia Vivian Museum and Archives, and how to donate by visiting www.ctovma.org.
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