By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published July 21, 2020
ATLANTA–Two prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, the Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, died Friday, July 17.
Both were friends of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and worked alongside him. In their fight against racial injustice, Vivian and Lewis participated in multiple protests and worked to combat racism in the United States, which included fighting for voting rights. Both lived in Atlanta at the time of their deaths.
“Two of the greatest voices in American history were silenced this weekend,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., of Atlanta. “The loss of Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis are heavy ones to bear, especially as our nation again grapples with the awful sin of systemic racism.”
Vivian led campaigns against segregation in various states across the South. The Missouri native provided civil rights counsel to five presidents during his lifetime, and he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
The minister and Lewis were Freedom Riders, working to desegregate public transportation. Vivian also worked on voting rights legislation and created The C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, to educate and train future grassroots leaders and serve the community.
A private funeral for Vivian will be Thursday, July 23, at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. The Lewis family will announce funeral plans later.
An Alabama native, Lewis participated in numerous sit-ins and protests throughout his life and is well-known for leading the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on March 7, 1965, also known as “Bloody Sunday.” Peaceful protestors were violently attacked by state troopers–a turning point in the civil rights movement.
Lewis served as the U.S. representative of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District from 1986 until his death. His voting record includes legislation that supported voting rights and other humanitarian efforts.
The Georgia representative has been honored in Atlanta by a downtown mural and renaming of Freedom Parkway in 2018. He received numerous honorary degrees and awards during his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. In 2005, Lewis was one of the first recipients of “The Mercy Moves Through Me Award” from Mercy Care Atlanta.
“The work of Rev. Vivian and Congressman Lewis stands as a testament to what non-violent protest, fueled by love and a dedication to justice, can do,” said Archbishop Hartmayer. “Their work in civil rights changed the course of history for our nation. We are called to carry on that effort. The Catholic community mourns their loss and honors their legacy. Join me in prayers of comfort for their family and friends and in prayer for all those who work for justice and peace in our world.”