C.T. Vivian remembered as courageous, humble civil rights warrior

Mourners march with the casket of the Rev. C.T. Vivian in Atlanta
Mourners march with the Rev. C.T. Vivian’s casket to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park during a memorial service July 22 in Atlanta.
(John Bazemore / Associated Press)

The nation paid its final respects Thursday to the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a pioneer of the civil rights movement who helped end segregation across the South and left an abiding imprint on U.S. history.

Vivian, a close ally of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was mourned by civil rights icons along with TV personality and author Oprah Winfrey, baseball legend Hank Aaron and others during a funeral at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. Vivian died Friday at age 95.

“C.T. was truly a remarkable man, a man whose physical courage was exceeded only by his moral courage, whose capacity for love overwhelmed incredible hatreds, whose faith and the power of nonviolence helped forever change our nation,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a video tribute aired during the service.

“In Illinois, and in Tennessee and Florida, and Mississippi — in the north and in the south — C.T. was there fighting to turn us back toward justice,” Biden added.


Many of those who eulogized Vivian described him as a courageous soldier for God and civil rights who always remained humble.

“He didn’t want attention, he didn’t want money, he only wanted to do God’s will and bring out the best in these United States of America and its people regardless of their race, creed, color or national origin,” Ambassador Andrew Young said in his videotaped remarks.

Residents of Selma, Ala., are among critics of a bid to rename the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights marchers were beaten in 1965.

More than a decade before lunch-counter protests made headlines during the civil rights movement, Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in Peoria, Ill., in the 1940s. He later joined forces with King and organized the Freedom Rides across the South to halt segregation.

Vivian was honored by President Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

On Wednesday, a horse-drawn carriage took his casket from the Georgia Capitol, where a memorial service was held, to King’s tomb in Atlanta.