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Statement from Tuskegee University President Dr. Lily D. McNair Honoring the Legacy and Impact of Reverend C. T. Vivian

July 24, 2020

Rev. C.T. Vivian -- Photo credit:
Rev. C.T. Vivian, Photo credit:

Tuskegee University is deeply saddened by the passing of civil rights icon and activist Reverend Cordy Tindell (C. T.)  Vivian, and extends condolences to his family.  

Inspired by a strong call to serve, Vivian leveraged early lessons learned at Illinois sit-ins he organized to play an important and long-term role in the Civil Rights movement. As one of the early Freedom Riders, he joined nearly 400 activists from across the nation as they challenged the Deep South to accept the desegregation of bus and train terminals, lunch counters and other public spaces. While his regular and frequent challenge of authority led to bumps, bruises and incarceration, his focus never wavered.

Vivian worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his initiatives and was recognized as one of his chief advisors. As the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s early National Director of Affiliates and eventual leader, he would travel throughout the South and around the world speaking up for those that could not speak for themselves.

The summer after the Selma movement, Vivian often referenced the struggles he faced pursuing advanced educational opportunities. Still fueled by a desire to serve, he launched the Vision Program, an innovative educational program which provided opportunities for more than 700 Alabama students to attend college.  The Vision Program would lay the groundwork for Upward Bound, a program that has allowed Tuskegee University to introduce and make college accessible and realistic for thousands of high school students for more than 50 years. 

As we celebrate Rev. C. T. Vivian’s life, may we remember his commitment to engage in works that make life better for one and all.


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