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Proposal to rename school in honor of C.T. Vivian

Rich Egger
Macomb school board member Jim LaPrad, the Reverend C.T. Vivian, and former school board member Chris Sutton (left to right). LaPrad and Sutton were instrumental in getting the Macomb High School library named in honor of Vivian.

A Macomb Board of Education member wants to rename one of the district's schools in honor of the Reverend C.T. Vivian.  Jim LaPrad said that as a civil rights leader, Dr. Vivian was a teacher.

"What better way to honor a teacher – a teacher for all of us, not just for little kids or little folks, but for all of us – what better way to honor a teacher than to name an institution of education after him?" LaPrad said during an interview with Tri States Public Radio.

Vivian was educated in Macomb schools. He went on to become one of leaders of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.

“He’s a civil rights hero,” LaPrad said. He is recommending renaming Edison School in honor of Vivian. Edison serves fourth through sixth grade students.

Credit Rich Egger
Dr. Vivian spoke to a full house at the Macomb High School auditorium in 2015.

LaPrad said Thomas Edison was a famous inventor who offered the world a lot, but Edison has no connection to Macomb, whereas Vivian spent his formative years in the community and its schools. LaPrad said Vivian loved Macomb right up to the end of his life.

LaPrad, who served his country in the Marines, said Vivian also served his country by fighting for truth and justice using non-violent means.

“In the military we always knew this in the back of our minds: we trained so that we would never have to fight. But a civil rights veteran had to always fight,” LaPrad said.

“And you think about his story and his legacy, being bloodied on the court steps, being punched by Sheriff Jim Clark. And then being arrested and put in jail. Wow! There’s something about that and that non-violent aspect. He got punched not because he was being violent but because he was asking for justice.”

What’s Next

Credit Rich Egger
One of the markers at the site of Vivian's boyhood home.

LaPrad said the school district is reviewing whether there is a process for renaming its buildings or whether one needs to be developed. The administration is expected to provide an update at the December 13 school board meeting. LaPrad said he will also need to determine whether there is support for his proposal.

“The naming of a school is a national statement. It’s about us – Macomb as a community – honoring him,” LaPrad said.

Vivian is already remembered in his boyhood hometown in several ways:

  • Stretches of North Lafayette, West Murray, and East Adams streets carry the honorary designation of Dr. C.T. Vivian Way.
  • The Macomb High School library is named in Vivian’s honor
  • Several organizations are collaborating to paint a mural of Vivian on a downtown wall

In addition, Byron Oden-Shabazz, president and founder of the Reverend C.T. Vivian Project, hopes to build a center of civic and social engagement at the site of Vivian’s boyhood home on Macomb’s east side. The site already features two historic markers.
Vivian died in July, 2020, a few days shy of his 96th birthday. His memoir, It's in the Action, came out in March, 2021.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.