Brother Albert Vivian (Fall 1981) Delivers Passionate Tribute To His Father Rev. Brother C.T. Vivian
By, Jonathan Raymond (www.11Alive.com)
ATLANTA — C.T. Vivian's sons spoke at his funeral on Thursday, and remembered him not just as the Civil Rights icon - whose loss is being felt around Atlanta, the nation and the world - but simply as an amazing dad. "How do you adequately say your final good-bye to the greatest person you've ever known?" his son, Al Vivian, asked.
Al Vivian and his brother Mark Vivian both spoke, painting a moving personal image of a man celebrated publicly for his work and, at home, revered for his devotion to his family.
"There'll never be anybody like C.T.," Mark Vivian said. "The greatest pleasure I had was to call him dad. People know all the great things he did, but they don't know him as dad." He spoke of the deep love his father shared with his mother, how they were each other's confidante and partner, the "person you pull your strength from."
"When folks say they have a father, cool, but I had a dad," he said. "I had somebody when I needed advice, when I needed looking up to, when I needed just to hear somebody say, 'I love you.' Even a few days before he passed, dad had that firm grip, shake that hand you got a firm grip ... to me that was a way of saying, 'I love you, I'm here for you, I got your back.' So dad, all I'd like to say is I love you, I miss you - none better than you."
Pictured above: Brother Vivian touches the casket of his late father and fraternity Brother as it leaves the memorial service.
Al Vivian fondly recalled a personal quirk of his father's - his penchant for "daring, adventurous, audacious" driving. C.T. Vivian, he said, could have raced with the greats, such as Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton, if he'd had another calling in life.
He also took stock of his father's awe-inspiring accomplishments. A man who put his stamp on the Civil Rights Movement through participation in lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, his work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and as a trusted friend to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pictured above: Rev. DeAna Jo Vivian, daughter-in-law and officiant, speaks during the funeral service of C.T. Vivian at Providence Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, July 23, 2020. She is also a Spelman College Alumna and Eta Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. initiate.
"Dad has counseled five U.S. presidents, he has sat with kings, he has traveled the world, he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom," Al said. "He is a man that Martin Luther King, Jr. called the greatest preacher he has ever heard. Let that sink in - Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who delivered what has been called the greatest speech of the entire 20th Century, said that dad was the greatest preacher that he ever heard."
He added that, "no matter how long I live, no matter whatever I accomplish, the greatest thing I will ever be known for is being the son of C.T. Vivian."
Al Vivian ended his remarks by returning to his original question, the dilemma, he called it, of "how to say good bye to the greatest person you've ever known."The answer to that dilemma, he said, was that he was not in fact saying his final good-bye. "We will see each other again in heaven, and as I enter, when that day comes, he, my mother, my big brother Gordy, will greet me with open arms," he said. "So, dad, until I see you again in heaven, I love you."
About Rev. Brother C.T. Vivian:
Cordy Tindell Vivian (July 30, 1924 – July 17, 2020) was an American minister, author, and close friend and lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. Vivian resided in Atlanta, Georgia, and founded the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. He was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Eta Lambda Chapter.
Pictured above: Rev. Brother Vivian pictured alongside his line Brothers following their initiation into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. on November 21, 2010.
Vivian was born in Boonville, Missouri. As a small boy he migrated with his mother to Macomb, Illinois, where he attended Lincoln Grade School and Edison Junior High School. Vivian graduated from Macomb High School in 1942 and attended Western Illinois University in Macomb, where he worked as the sports editor for the school newspaper. His first professional job was recreation director for the Carver Community Center in Peoria, Illinois. There, Vivian participated in his first sit-in demonstrations, which successfully integrated Barton's Cafeteria in 1947.
Studying for the ministry at American Baptist Theological Seminary (now called American Baptist College) in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1959, Vivian met James Lawson, who was teaching Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent direct action strategy to the Nashville Student Movement. Soon Lawson's students, including Diane Nash, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, John Lewis and others from American Baptist, Fisk University and Tennessee State University, organized a systematic nonviolent sit-in campaign at local lunch counters.
On April 19, 1960, 4,000 demonstrators peacefully walked to Nashville's City Hall, where Vivian and Diane Nash discussed the situation with Nashville Mayor Ben West. As a result, Mayor West publicly agreed that racial discrimination was morally wrong. Many of the students who participated in the Nashville Student Movement soon took on major leadership roles in both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Vivian helped found the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, and helped organize the first sit-ins in Nashville in 1960 and the first civil rights march in 1961. In 1961, Vivian participated in Freedom Rides. He worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. as the national director of affiliates for the SCLC. During the summer following the Selma Voting Rights Movement, Vivian conceived and directed an educational program, Vision, and put 702 Alabama students in college with scholarships (this program later became Upward Bound). His 1970 Black Power and the American Myth was the first book on the Civil Rights Movement by a member of Martin Luther King's staff.
In the 1970s Vivian moved to Atlanta, and in 1977 founded the Black Action Strategies and Information Center (BASICS), a consultancy on multiculturalism and race relations in the workplace and other contexts. In 1979 he co-founded, with Anne Braden, the Center for Democratic Renewal (initially as the National Anti-Klan Network), an organization where blacks and whites worked together in response to white supremacist activity. In 1984 he served in Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign, as the national deputy director for clergy. In 1994 he helped to establish, and served on the board of Capitol City Bank and Trust Co., a black-owned Atlanta bank. He also served on the board of Every Church a Peace Church.
Vivian continued to speak publicly and offer workshops, and did so at many conferences around the country and the world, including with the United Nations. He was featured as an activist and an analyst in the civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize, and was featured in a PBS special, The Healing Ministry of Dr. C. T. Vivian. He made numerous appearances on Oprah as well as the Montel Williams Show and Donahue. He was the focus of the biography Challenge and Change: The Story of Civil Rights Activist C.T. Vivian by Lydia Walker.
In 2008, Vivian founded and incorporated the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. (CTVLI) to "Create a Model Leadership Culture in Atlanta" Georgia. The C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute conceived, developed and implemented the "Yes, We Care" campaign on December 18, 2008 (four days after the City of Atlanta turned the water off at Morris Brown College (MBC) and, over a period of two and a half months, mobilized the Atlanta community to donate in excess of $500,000 directly to Morris Brown as "bridge funding." That effort saved the Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and allowed the college to negotiate with the city which ultimately restored the water services to the college.
On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama named Vivian as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Vivian died on July 17, 2020, in Atlanta two weeks before his 96th birthday, the same day as his friend and fellow activist, Georgia Congressman John Lewis.