WIUM Tristates Public Radio

President Obama Honors Macomb Native

Aug 9, 2013

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is being awarded to Dr. C.T. Vivian, who grew up in Macomb.

The medal is the highest civilian honor given in the U.S.

Vivian worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others during the American Civil Rights Movement, taking part in Freedom Rides and sit-ins.

Dr. C.T. Vivian
Credit Rich Egger

In an interview last year with Tri States Public Radio, Vivian said the world changes only if people get involved.

I like the idea of being able to be as helpful as possible for as long as I can

“If a difference is going to be made in the world, it’s only going to be made in relationship to the numbers of people that take life seriously enough and take what they consider as right and wrong seriously enough to live by it,” Vivian said.

“In living by it, I don’t mean listening to it. I mean doing something to make it real.”

Vivian said his parents moved from Missouri** to western Illinois when he was young. They chose Macomb because they wanted their son to grow up in a college town.

Vivian is still revered in his hometown, and the stretch of Murray Street in front of the WIU Union now has the honorary designation “Dr. C.T. Vivian Way.”

Vivian currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is 89 and still active.

“I would rather live that way than without it,” Vivian said. “I like the idea of being able to be as helpful as possible for as long as I can.”

Among other things, he has founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute, and last year he served as interim President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

15 others are also being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They include former President Bill Clinton, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, and former Chicago Cub Ernie Banks.

**This story originally reported Vivian was born in Mississippi rather than Missouri. Tri States Public Radio regrets the error.