The legendary Reverend C.T. Vivian — a Civil Rights icon who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organization he co-founded — has passed away. He was 95 years old.
Over the last 60 years, Vivian’s work towards creating a more just, equitable society for Black people is almost incalculable. His journey began in the 1940s in Peoria, Illinois, where he participated on sit-in demonstrations as a young man. In 1955, he met his longtime friend and collaborator King while working on the Montgomery Bus Boycott — one of the Civil Rights Movement’s first major public victories.
Vivian was also a preacher, who studied theology at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee. He organized Nashville’s first sit-ins, later joined the Freedom Rides in Mississippi and served the SCLC as its interim president. Vivian received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
“There must always be the understanding of what Martin had in mind for this organization,” Vivian said in a 2012 interview. “Nonviolent, direct action makes us successful. We learned how to solve social problems without violence. We cannot allow the nation or the world to ever forget that.”