On Friday, July 17, 2000, the world was shocked when we received the news that two noted Civil Rights leaders, United States Congressman for Georgia, John Robert Lewis, and Reverend Dr. Cordy Tindell “C. T.” Vivian both had died.
John Lewis was born on February 21, 1940 in Troy, Alabama, one of ten children, to Willie Mae Carter and Eddie Lewis and served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death. An amazing story of struggle and triumph, Lewis fought as a Civil Rights activist and Freedom Rider, notably in the 1960s, for racial desegregation, equality and opportunity for all and to end discrimination. Lewis served as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966. He helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington. Known for organizing and getting wounded in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Lewis and other nonviolent, peaceful demonstrators had been viciously attacked and beaten by armed Alabama policemen.
The “Good trouble, necessary trouble” leader will be missed throughout the nation. We thank him for his leadership and the example that he left. He died after a fight with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
He served from 1991 as a Chief Deputy Whip and from 2003 as Senior Chief Deputy Whip. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, presented by United States President Barack Obama.
Lewis graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee and was ordained as a Baptist minister. He received a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University.
While in Nashville, Tennessee, he had organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. He and the Nashville boycotts helped to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville. He was also instrumental in organizing bus boycotts and other nonviolent protests in the fight for voter and racial equality.
Lewis has often recalled the amount of violence he and other Freedom Riders endured. In Birmingham, they were beaten with baseball bats, chains, lead pipes, rocks and stones.
Lewis had been a longtime friend and supporter of The Atlanta Inquirer newspaper since its founding.
Atlantan and Civil Rights activist Xernona Clayton Brady remembers her friend and recalls that she introduced John Lewis to his future wife Lillian. Xernona Clayton Brady’s and John Lewis’s friendship goes way back. When seeing him the week before he died, she said that he thanked her for her friendship.
“He lived such an amazing life,” Clayton Brady commented. “I’ve lost my good friend.”
John R. Lewis was preceded in death by his wife Lillian in 2012. He is survived by their son John Miles Lewis of Atlanta.
Xernona Clayton Brady commented on both of her friends John Lewis and Revered Dr. C. T. Vivian. “They worked together and now going to heaven together.”
“I felt a little sad… sad that they won’t be here anymore,” Clayton Brady adds. They left such a legacy. “They left us an example and a template how to be kind and good to people.” They lived “such a good and essential life.”
Cordy Tindell “C. T.” Vivian was born July 30, 1924 in Boonville, Missouri and lived for a period of time in Illinois.
He is known for his activism since the 1940s. He was a sit-in demonstrator and helped to desegregate lunch counters and cafeterias.
He studied at American Baptist Theological Seminary (now called American Baptist College) in Nashville, Tennessee.
Vivian and students from American Baptist, Fisk University and Tennessee State University organized a systematic nonviolent sit-in campaign at local lunch counters. Vivian’s efforts helped to desegregate Nashville.
In 2008, Vivian founded and incorporated the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. (CTVLI) to “Create a Model Leadership Culture in Atlanta.”
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, presented by United States President Barack Obama.
Friend and fellow civil rights activist Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. commented about John Lewis and C. T. Vivian also. They “marched together, went to jail together, and now in eternity together.” “They are in a great cloud of witnesses.” Moss went on to mention other great leaders and activists that preceded them in death including longtime Atlanta Inquirer publisher John B. Smith, Sr. and Atlanta businessman Jesse Hill, Jr.
Referring to God’s heavenly divine in which these great leaders are now a part of, “All are all in that number,” Moss says.
On July 22, 2020, there was a private funeral for C. T. Vivian considering the current COVID-19 pandemic. His son, Al Vivian, made wonderful comments about his father. Friends and leaders also reminisced.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Baseball legend Henry “Hank” Aaron, Civil Rights activist Ambassador Andrew Young and multimedia mogul Oprah Winfrey gave virtual video tributes to Vivian.
The Atlanta Inquirer thanks both John R. Lewis and C. T. Vivian for their years of service to the beloved community, to our country and to the world.
Last updated on July 26, 2020