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Civil rights leader, MLK confidante C.T. Vivian dies at 95

By
Don Jacobson
Rev. C.T. Vivian (L) is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., on November 20, 2013. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Rev. C.T. Vivian (L) is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., on November 20, 2013. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 17 (UPI) -- Civil rights leader C.T. Vivian, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King during his crusade for racial equality, has died at the age of 95.

Vivian died early Friday in Atlanta, relatives said.

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Vivian, a Black Baptist minister, was one of King's staunchest supporters and most effective aides with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1960s, as the organization spearheaded a non-violent campaign to end segregation in the South.

During his time as SCLC director from 1963 to 1966, Vivian organized protests, oversaw non-violence training, conducted voter registration drives and worked on community development projects.

Vivian was known as a tireless organizer of marches, sit-ins at lunch counters and boycotts of businesses practicing segregation -- measures that often resulted in violent police responses and mass arrests.

He was frequently arrested, jailed and beaten, including an incident in 1961 when he was severely beaten by guards at the Hinds County Prison Farm in Mississippi.

President Barack Obama meets with Vivian at the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 2015. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI


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Vivian was famously punched by a county sheriff in Selma, Ala., in 1965 during a voter registration campaign. The confrontation and other heavy-handed police tactics helped sway U.S. public opinion and coincided with the national Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson.

Vivian received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2013. His wife, Octavia Geans Vivian, preceded him in death in 2011.

Vivian is survived by five children: Denise, Kira, Mark, Anita and Albert. Another son, Cordy Vivian Jr., died in 2010.

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