The world loses two civil rights icons

Civil rights leaders and Rep. John Lewis (left) and the Rev. C.T. Vivian (right) were friends, and members of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle. They both died on the same day, Friday, July 17, 2020

Two iconic civil rights leaders died on Friday, as the nation continues to protest against  racial and social injustice.

Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, author, civil rights leader, close friend and  lieutenant for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil right movement. Vivian later led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. His civil rights advocacy spanned more than half a century. He was renowned for organizing the 1961 in Freedom Rides and sit-ins and advocating for Black voting rights. Vivian died two weeks before his 96th birthday, at age 95 at his home in Atlanta.


John Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers. Lewis begin his activism at a young age. Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained fearless and devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He served in the House of Representatives since 1987. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders. By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of 23 he was the youngest person to speak during the March on Washington and was the last surviving speaker from the event until his death on Friday. Lewis died at the age of 80 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

In 2011, President Barack Obama honored Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 2013, Vivian was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama

Atlanta Sports teams released statements acknowledging and honoring the civil rights giants, CT Vivian and Congressman John Lewis.

The Atlanta Dream released the following statement on the passing of Rep. John Lewis:

“The entire Atlanta Dream organization grieves the loss of Rep. John Lewis. He was an American hero who represented our community with dignity and class. He will be missed but his legacy will live on.”

The Atlanta Hawks released the following statement on the passing of Congressman John Lewis:

“The Atlanta Hawks mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis. Last night, our city and country lost one of its heroes and most important civil rights icons who was highly regarded for his nearly six decades of social activism and getting into ‘good trouble’. He continued to inspire so many with his courage, sacrifice and unwavering dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles. His legacy will forever be remembered throughout the city’s peaceful protests to fight racial inequality in the 1960s, and our nation will be forever indebted to him for his lifelong dedication to public service. The entire Hawks organization sends their deepest condolences to Mr. Lewis’ family and his friends.”

The owner of Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United and Chairman of the Blank Family Foundation, Arthur Blanks released a statement on the passing of Rep. John Lewis.

“At the passing of a true American icon, I join his family, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia and our country in mourning the loss of my dear friend Congressman John Lewis. Freedom fighter are words that were rightly associated with John all his life. It was one of the great honors of my life to be standing at John’s side in 2011 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his decades of service as a Congressman representing our city and for his heroic courage as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders during the most turbulent years of the civil rights movement. John wore the scars of a brutal 1965 beating he received while leading the history-changing ‘Bloody Sunday’ march in Selma – to those honored to know him, it was always a reminder that freedom isn’t free. John risked his life to end legalized racial segregation and make America a better place for us and future generations. Throughout his 33 years representing Atlanta in Congress, he served as the conscience of that body, reminding us all that democracy is a daily struggle. That’s the enduring legacy of one of the most courageous people I ever met. May he rest well and at peace after such a meaningful, purpose-filled life.”



The Atlanta Hawks released the following statement on the passing of Civil Rights Movement leader, minister, and author, Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian:

“The Atlanta Hawks organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Civil Rights Movement leader, minister, and author, Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. The City of Atlanta and the entire world has lost a distinguished icon whose leadership pushed the United States to greater justice and racial equality for African Americans. To inspire the next generation, Vivian founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute in Atlanta, with the intent to create a model of leadership culture in the city that would be dedicated to the development and sustainability of our communities. He also started Basic Diversity, one of the nation’s first diversity consulting firms, now led by his son, Al, who has been a great partner to our organization. We are grateful for Dr. Vivian’s many years of devotion to Atlanta and thankful that we had the opportunity to honor him and share his legacy with our fans. The entire Hawks organization extends its most sincere condolences to the grieving family.”


Former US President Jimmy Carter statement on the passing of John Lewis.