Long-time Congressman Rep. John Lewis died late Friday night from an ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer, while civil rights leader and MLK contemporary C.T. Vivian died in his home in Atlanta surrounded by family. He was 95 years old.
Representative Lewis had been a staple on Capitol Hill for over 30 years, he’s well known as a survivor of Bloody Sunday in 1965. In his later years, Lewis led the charge against President Donald Trump, calling himself the active leader of the resistance movement. He boycotted the inauguration and called for Trump to be impeached as recently as last October.
Principled, brave, conscientious and, ultimately, a believer in the power of the people, Rep. John Lewis reached across generational lines throughout his career. From a young troublemaker to a beloved elder statesman, his passion and persistence will be sorely missed in these times.
Rev. C.T. Vivian has been a staple in the ongoing American fight for civil rights since he was a young man. Born in Boonville, MO on July 30, 1924, Vivian would go onto participate in his first lunch counter sit-in in 1947.
He would continue to participate in sit-ins before meeting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955. Vivian reportedly suffered a stroke two months ago and appeared to be on the mend when he suddenly stopped eating, according to family members.
In 2013, C.T. was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
“The trail they blazed gave today’s generation of activists and marchers a roadmap to tag in and finish the journey,” Obama wrote on Instagram.
“And I have to imagine that seeing the largest protest movement in history unfold over his final months gave the Reverend a final dose of hope before his long and well-deserved rest.”
The former director of national affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was also Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and founder of the National Anti-Klan Network, which was later renamed the Center for Democratic Renewal. He went on to found the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute dedicated to “a model leadership culture for the purpose of training and educating the new generation of grassroots leaders.”
Both titans of change and resilience were instrumental in laying the foundation for protest actions that are taking place across the nation. Though the timing of their demise is troubling, the blueprints they left behind will certainly inspire others to rise up in their stead. Rest in power.