On the morning of July 17, Civil Rights icon the Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian peacefully passed away at his home. He was 95 years old.

A private service will be held for family only due to COVID-19 at Providence Missionary Baptist Church at 11 am on Thursday, July 23. 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. 

“The family is heartbroken at the loss of our father, but proud of his lifelong work to free America from its tradition of racism, hate, and violence,” said his daughter Denise Morse. “He loved all mankind and will be missed. Vivian was preceded in death by his wife of nearly 60 years, Octavia.”

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. 

Vivian was born in Boonville, Mo., on July 30, 1924, the only child of Robert and Euzetta Tindell Vivian. His family moved to Macomb, Ill., when he was 6, and he later graduated from Macomb High School in 1942. He studied history at Western Illinois University in Macomb, but he dropped out and became a recreation worker in Peoria, Ill., where he joined his first protest, in 1947, helping to desegregate a cafeteria.

With the help of his church, he enrolled in American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville in 1955. In 1959, Vivian met the Rev. James Lawson, who was teaching nonviolent strategies to members of the Nashville Student Movement. His students included Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, and John Lewis, all of whom became prominent civil rights organizers.

Vivian was awarded the highest medal of honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama on Nov. 20, 2014, for his extensive work alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., with whom he helped lead sit-ins and other demonstrations around the country. 

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. 

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 Vivian over his lifetime. This collection, along with some of his original papers, a myriad of awards, and artwork has 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. 

Vivian also continues to inspire and empower communities whilst furthering the ongoing conversation on Civil Rights through the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute Initiative.  

The civil rights activist C.T. Vivian in Atlanta in 2012. Across the South, he led sit-ins at lunch counters, boycotts against businesses and marches that continued for weeks or months. (David Goldman / AP Photo)

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