BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The world lost two giants of the Civil Rights Movement over the weekend with the passing of Congressman John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian.
On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council honored both men and spoke to their contributions towards the ongoing fight for justice and equality.
There were several tributes from speakers, including former U.S. Congressman Earl Hilliard, who served with Congressman Lewis for a decade in Washington and spoke to his contributions to America.
“John Lewis was an organizer. He was never seeking fame,” Hilliard said. “He became known in the United States Congress as the conscience of that body…He was a silent giant and one who became known for fighting for the rights of all people. On Sunday, [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi said that when John Lewis spoke it was angelic. He was always like an angel speaking. And now, he is among them.”
Council President William Parker spoke to their service, not only during the Civil Rights Movement, but also in the years that followed.
“Both men were involved at a young age with the movement and were committed to service to others,” President Parker said. “They were true icons in every sense of the word. Our city, our state and our country are indebted to their service and the legacy they’ve left behind. Today we wanted to say thank you and say that we remain dedicated to their mission of ‘good trouble.’”
Councilor Clinton Woods said that both men proved to the world that nonviolent civil disobedience can change the world and break down structures of oppression.
“These men made a commitment to nonviolence even when violence was directed at them,” Woods said. “You hear these stories of them nearly being killed. That is what forced the world to realize what racism and oppression really looked like. By them being committed to that strategy is what helped change the world.”
“The Birmingham City Council would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of these two heroes,” Parker said in a press release. “They spent their lives fighting against racism and injustice, and their memories and lasting work will continue to influence and inspire for many generations to come.”
Vivian, 95, served as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s field general during the civil rights movement. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, 80, served more than three decades in Congress where he was considered a “moral conscience” because of his belief in the nonviolent fight for civil rights. Both men were also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
Parker submitted resolutions to the council honoring Lewis and Vivian. Parker is also asked that everyone wear black ribbons in their honor.