Rolling Out

Black leaders react to the death of civil rights icon C.T. Vivian

Black leaders react to the death of civil rights icon C.T. Vivian
Civic rights icon C. T. Vivian (Photo credit: /Kathy Hutchins)

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, a minister, civil rights icon and lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died Friday, July 17, 2020, at his home in Atlanta. He was 95.

Born Cordy Tindell Vivian in 1924 in Howard County, Missouri, he began his career as an activist in 1947 when he participated in a sit-in at the Carver Community Center and helped to integrate the center’s cafeteria.

Vivian would continue his work in the South, where he became a member of the Nashville Student Movement and held leadership positions in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He worked closely with King and participated in transformative events, including the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, Freedom Rides, push for voting rights and the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

In 2013, Vivian was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

“His friendship, encouraging words, and ever-present smile were a great source of inspiration and comfort, and personally, I will miss him greatly,” Obama said in a statement in response to Vivian’s passing.

Vivian died of natural causes, according to The Associated Press.

View more reactions to his life and passing below:

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