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Honoring Our Civil Rights Heroes

Reverend Doctor
Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian
1924 - 2020

John Robert Lewis
1940 - 2020

"Do what you can do and do it well.
But always ask your question: Is it serving people?"

Reverend Doctor Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian

As citizens take these final days to pay their last respects to Congressman John Robert Lewis, the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) joins the country in mourning the passing and honoring the legacies of both Civil Rights icons Congressman Lewis and Reverend Doctor Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian.

Dr. Vivian and Congressman Lewis studied theology together at the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee, where they also trained activists in nonviolent protest. These two giants of the civil rights movement marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and organized numerous protests in the effort to combat racial and social injustices, and in the struggle for voting rights for every citizen. These early and pivotal experiences led to a lifetime of public service and community advocacy. Congressman Lewis and Dr. Vivian spent their lives fighting against “all forms of inequality,” including what Dr. King called, “injustice in health, ...the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”

ABC Founder Dr. Richard Allen Williams with Honorable Congressman John R. Lewis at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner, September 14, 2019, Washington, D.C.
ABC Founder Dr. Richard Allen Williams said in a statement: "I have had the privilege to meet and converse with a number of individuals involved prominently in the struggle to achieve civil rights for all people, especially in matters of equity in healthcare delivery. The late Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis were what I consider "twin" champions of minority health because of their numerous advocacy activities on that scene."

Known by many as “The Quiet Warrior,” Dr. Vivian’s mission always focused on giving back and uplifting the community. He served as one of Dr. King’s key lieutenants, and created a program, that later would become known as Upward Bound, to help students, particularly Black students, graduate from high school and pursue a college education. The national program is run through the U.S. Department of Education and supports high school students from low-income families and those in which neither parent holds a college degree. Dr. Vivian later created a leadership center based in Atlanta, Georgia, to train and educate “a new generation of grass-roots leaders inspired to mobilize a constituency.”

ABC Board Chair Dr. Elizabeth O. Ofili said in a statement: Reverend C. T. Vivian convinced me that his heart was in great shape, with an excellent Stress Test report! His vibrant and joyous smile is an ever-present memory. It was indeed my honor to care for this Icon of the Civil Rights movement.

Considered the “Conscience of the Congress,” Congressman Lewis of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District fiercely advocated, in the last few years, against the concerted effort to dismantle and repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He often expressed a deep belief that equal and affordable health care should be made available to every American. And as such, he worked relentlessly, particularly in the midst of COVID-19, to fix the “underlying flaws in our health system that result in communities of color bearing the disproportionate burden of a global health crisis.” Congressman Lewis was also a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus.

Dr. Williams added: "Congressman Lewis was particularly encouraging to me on several occasions when we were attempting to establish a foothold for the ABC. He understood the need for our organization in eliminating healthcare disparities, increasing diversity and inclusion, and achieving cultural competency in medicine. His efforts in Congress to sustain the Affordable Care Act have been beneficial to all of us, and ABC owes him a debt of gratitude for his commitment."

Dr. Ofili added: "Congressman Lewis was a great humanitarian whose fight for justice and equality was tireless. I was honored to meet Congressman Lewis several times; during one such meeting in his Atlanta Office, he listened with intent as we shared how Morehouse School of Medicine is working with Church communities in Atlanta to improve health. He walked our team through photos of Selma. It was an amazing experience! His extraordinary legacy will live on through the numerous lives he has touched and we will forever be indebted to all he has done to move our country closer to a ‘more fair, more just society.’ ”

Freedom riders. Men of the Movement. Civil Rights Trailblazers. True American Heroes. These legendary figures with extraordinary stories - putting their lives on the line, speaking and standing up for those who couldn’t - leave us all with a blueprint for making lasting change. We will forever be grateful for their sacrifice and dedication, but it is now time for us to carry the torch they left us - to get in good, necessary, trouble and to ask how can we serve others. This is and will always be the mission of the ABC as we work to eliminate the disparities that plague our communities, particularly now during this pandemic, as well as the racism that makes this effort all the more challenging. How will you carry on their legacies?

The ABC wishes to express its deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and constituents of Congressman Lewis and Dr. Vivian. May they both Rest in Peace.

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Congressman John Robert Lewis

View the tribute service held at the Providence Missionary Baptist Church for Dr. Vivian
Learn more about the six-day celebration of Congressman Lewis’ legacy in Georgia, Alabama and Washington, D.C.

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