Macomb Celebrates the Life of Civil Rights Leader

Civil Rights Leader, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, was Raised & Educated in Macomb

In 2013, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian was honored for his vision and leadership in the fight for justice when he was awarded this Nation’s highest civilian honor – The Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition to his role in the Civil Rights Movement, Vivian provided civil rights counsel to Presidents Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama.

The New School for Social Research spoke of Vivian as a “… spiritual leader, apostle of social justice, strategist of the Civil Rights Movement … For decades he has been in the vanguard of the struggle for racial equality in America”, as they presented him with one of his many honorary doctorates.

Vivian’s Early Life:

Distinguished minister, author and civil rights pioneer, Rev. 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. 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.

Vivian’s Civil Rights Movement – Historic Events:

Later in life 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 alongside John Lewis.
  • He also helped establish numerous civil rights organizations, including the National Anti-Klan Network, Vision, and the Center for Democratic Renewal.

Vivian’s Civil Rights Movement – Lifetime Leadership & Achievements:

  • 1960 – Vivian helped organize the first lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, and the city’s first civil rights march a year later.
    • He worked alongside King, James Bevel, Diane Nash and members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham, Selma, Chicago and the March on Washington.
  • 1966 – One year after the Selma Movement, Vivian created and directed the educational program, Vision, placing several hundred Alabama students in college with scholarships.
    • The program name changed and later became Upward Bound.
  • 1970 – Vivian’s book, Black Power and the American Myth was the first publication on the Civil Rights Movement by a member of King’s staff.

Friday, July 17, 2020, at the age 95, Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian passed away, astonishingly on the same day as his lifelong friend Rep. John Lewis. He was honored at his funeral by TV personality and author Oprah Winfrey, baseball legend Hank Aaron and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.

Walk in the Footsteps of Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian

Plan a visit to Macomb. Walk in the footsteps of Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian and see his impressive 75-foot-long mural! The mural depicts Vivian late in life looking over the course of his storied lifetime from a young man graduating from Macomb High School and Western Illinois University through his experiences as a reverend and leading activist in the Civil Rights Movement to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barrack Obama. The mural was dedicated in Macomb on July 30th, 2022, in honor of Dr. Vivian’s birthdate. Plans for a C.T. Vivian Center and Park are underway at the site of his childhood home in Macomb, IL.

Once you’ve arrived in Macomb, IL you can visit the Unforgettable Forgottonia / MACVB offices for additional information and directions or call (404) 787-6151. Also visit the C.T. Vivian webpage or email: [email protected].