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.
Some thoughts on the Reverend C.T. Vivian, a pioneer who pulled America closer to our founding ideals and a friend who I will miss greatly. pic.twitter.com/kDsGhU2BF4
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 17, 2020
Vivian died of natural causes, according to The Associated Press.
View more reactions to his life and passing below:
We lost a giant today. Civil rights champion Reverend C.T. Vivian dedicated his life to fighting and organizing against racial justice and to make our nation a better place for all. Keeping his family in my prayers during this time. https://t.co/SSfnIQWnCE
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 17, 2020
We have lost another beautiful soul. https://t.co/mjYy5cQHXn
— Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (@esglaude) July 17, 2020
I am sad to learn of the passing of Rev. C. T. Vivian, who worked with my father during the civil rights era, and continued the fight throughout his life. He also worked with my wife Arndrea at the Center for Democratic Renewal. His voice and leadership will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/CtrGz68Qb8
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) July 17, 2020
A warrior is now with the angels. Heart is heavy to wake up to this news. Elegant man. Fighting spirit. They beat him. Jailed him. Almost drowned him. He kept going. He changed our world. C.T. Vivian, Civil Rights Icon, Is Dead at 95 💔 https://t.co/sNxEaXtBZJ
— Michele Norris (@michele_norris) July 17, 2020
Our city and nation lost an incredibly kind and courageous man today. May the lessons of love, leadership, and reconciliation taught to us by C.T. Vivian continue to rest and abide in our hearts and minds, today and always. pic.twitter.com/fIuRMOLaiV
— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) July 17, 2020
The passing of C.T. Vivian should cause us all to pause and celebrate the life and sacrifice of this giant. He made this nation and world a better place. RIP, my friend.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) July 17, 2020