The civil rights leader grew up in the western Illinois community, which paid homage to him during a three day visit that coincided with homecoming at Western Illinois University.
A ceremony was held to mark the renaming of the library at Macomb Junior-Senior High School in Dr. Vivian’s honor; the stretch of North Lafayette St. from University Dr. to the intersection with Route 136 was given the honorary designation “Dr C T Vivian Way;” and he served as Grand Marshal for WIU’s homecoming.
These are the just latest honors given to recognize a life filled with achievement. In 2013 Vivian was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor given in the United States.
“I was part of the non-violent team that made it possible for Martin King to have the victory over segregation and racism. It would not have worked had we not been non-violent,” Vivian told reporters after the library dedication.
In addition to his work with the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, Vivian provided civil rights counsel to Presidents Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama, he’s been involved with numerous civil rights and justice groups, and he currently serves as Board Chair of BASIC Diversity, Inc.
Vivian is 91 but it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to slow down. “What I’m afraid of right now is that the billionaires that are putting (huge sums of money) into electing their own people and a Supreme Court that allows money to be used as the vote. How long will we have before we do not really have a democratic society? That’s the real fear. And I hope before I die, I will at least be in on (rectifying) that,” Vivian said. “Another whole movement is needed. Democracy is what it’s all about.”
He said people are already working on the issue; it’s just a matter of how it will get done. He believes the day has passed when movements need a great leader – he said progress should come from people believing in democracy and decency.
“Few people in American actually vote. That’s a loser’s way. We must be voting to win and maintain democracy in America,” Vivian said.