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C.T. Vivian – Civil Rights Pioneer

Distinguished minister, author and civil rights pioneer, Dr. Cordy Tindell “C. T.” Vivian, as a small boy, migrated with his mother to Macomb, IL where he attended Lincoln Grade School and Edison Junior High School. Dr. Vivian graduated from Macomb Senior High School in 1942 and went on to attend Western Illinois University in Macomb, where he worked as the sports editor for the school newspaper.

Later in life C.T. Vivian became a leader and organizer in the Civil Rights Movement, and a confidant and friend to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Vivian participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across the country. He also helped establish numerous civil rights organizations, including the National Anti-Klan Network, Vision, and the Center for Democratic Renewal.

Dr. Vivian helped organize the first lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville in 1960, and the city’s first civil rights march a year later. He worked alongside King, James Bevel, Diane Nash and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham, Selma, Chicago and the March on Washington.

In 1966, a year after the Selma Movement, Vivian created and directed the educational program, Vision, and put several hundred Alabama students in college with scholarships. The program name changed and later became Upward Bound. His 1970 book, Black Power and the American Myth was the first publication on the Civil Rights Movement by a member of King’s staff.

In August of 2013, President Barack Obama named C.T. Vivian as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. Vivian returned to Macomb in 2015 as Grand Marshall of Western Illinois University’s annual Homecoming Parade.