C.T. Vivian, Civil Rights Icon, Dead at 95

C.T. Vivian, a civil rights leader, died at the age of 95. His daughter was the first to break the news. Vivian, whose full name is Cordy Tindell Vivian, was at his Atlanta home when he died of natural causes on Friday.

His daughter called him the “sweetest man” when reporting the news to CNN. “He was so loving. What a loving Dad,” she said, adding that he was the “best father” anyone could ask for. Vivian was known for working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom Riders. He helped to found the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, which was an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and helped to organize some of the first protests in the city. Among some of his other works, Vivian helped to create a college program aimed at benefiting students who were kicked out of school for protesting racism. He also founded the National Anti-Klan Network in the 1970s, eventually broadening the group to go bigger than focusing on the Ku Klux Klan.

His career and charitable works resulted in him achieving the highest honor for a civilian: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded Vivian with the honor, saying in his address that Vivian was always among the first to act. Obama went on to discuss some of the notable acts he made, beginning in 1947 when he joined a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant. Later, he was in Selma where he helped to register Blacks to vote, an act that resulted in him being beaten and jailed. “And at 89 years old, Rev. Vivian is still out there, still in the action, pushing us closer to our founding ideals.”

The death of Vivian comes on the heels of another Civil Rights leader passing away in John Lewis, who was 80 years old. “He was a stalwart champion in the on-going struggle to demand respect for the dignity and worth of every human being,” his family shared in a statement per CNN. “He dedicated his entire life to non-violent activism and was an outspoken advocate in the struggle for equal justice in America.” The loss of Brown and Vivian also comes as the country deals with racial tensions following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.