John Lewis' death Friday night even eclipsed the COVID-19 story, and rightly so. But another giant of the modern civil rights movement left us on the same day, one many people in Fort Wayne had come to know during his two visits to the city in recent years.
Like Lewis, C.T. Vivian had an unshakable faith in justice and was more than willing to put his life on the line for that belief.
He endured beatings by prison guards and an Alabama sheriff and even a near-drowning by Klansmen during an attempt to integrate the “white ocean” at St. Augustine, Florida.
But also like Lewis, Vivian adhered to the nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King. King, who once said Vivian was the “greatest preacher ever to live,” made him a trusted lieutenant in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Decades after King's death, Vivian was still spreading his message.
'Martin, he brought us all into action against a basic evil in our society, which was racism,” Vivian told an interviewer before his first visit here. “It wasn't enough to preach. You had to act.”
Vivian spoke here on April 4, 2016, to commemorate King's death. He returned two years later with fellow Freedom Rider Diane Nash to speak about their efforts to integrate the interstate transportation system in the early '60s by riding Greyhound buses throughout the South.