The Rev. C.T. Vivian

*1924: Born July 28 in Boonville, Mo., the only child of Robert Cordie and Euzetta Tindell Vivian. Named Cordy Tindell -- nicknamed C.T. -- a combination of his father's middle name and his mother's family name.

*1942: Graduates from Macomb High School, where he had been an active student leader; begins stint at Western Illinois University.

*Mid-1940s: Begins first of several stays in Peoria, hired at Carver Community Center.

*1953: Marries Octavia Geans, a native of Pontiac, Mich., who had moved to Peoria to work at Carver.

*1954: While working at Foster & Gallagher mail-order company, he hears a voice. "Work for me 10 to 12 hours a day. " This is his call to the ministry. Preaches first sermon at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Peoria.

*1963: Appointed to executive staff of SCLC by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His official title is national director of affiliates.

*1965: In Selma, he confronts Sheriff Jim Clark on the steps of the city's courthouse, while leading black citizens up the steps of the city's courthouse to register to vote.

*1969: Writes "Black Power and the American Myth."

*1979: Helps organize and serves as board chairman for National Anti-Klan Network, currently known as Center for Democratic Renewal.

*1999: Though he has turned day-to-day operations of BASIC over to his son (one of seven children), at 75, he still lectures and is involved in numerous national and international boards and groups that promote nonviolent tactics for social change.


Starting in Macomb, then Peoria, the Rev. C.T. Vivian ushered in one of America's greatest movements
By Pam Adams
of the Journal Star

n a rainy day, in a borrowed overcoat, the Rev. C.T. Vivian led a long line of black people up the stairs of the county courthouse in Selma, Ala. All they wanted to do was get out of the rain while they waited to register to vote. It was February 1965. Long lines of black people waiting to register had become a familiar part of the landscape in front of the courthouse. Thousands, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., had already been jailed, if not beaten, in and around those courthouse steps during the Selma campaign. Some would be killed. "Bloody Sunday," as the attempted march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge came to be known, was yet to come.

Though an 1868 amendment guaranteed black men the right to vote, over the next century Southern states codified clever systems to get around the U.S. Constitution.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by King, wanted a federal law to protect blacks' right to vote. SCLC leaders, King and Vivian among them, knew Alabama's white leadership would be a wicked blessing in their efforts.



 Copyright Peoria Journal Star, Inc. 2002