LA Metro mourns civil rights icons Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian

LA Metro joins the nation in mourning the passing of American civil rights icons Congressman John Lewis and Reverend C.T. Vivian. Our country has lost two indefatigable leaders for civil rights and justice, both of whom were widely known as the conscience of America.

As recent events have shown, our nation still has a long road ahead to achieve its ideals — and Rep. Lewis and Reverend Vivian contributed so much to the progress that we have made. Both men were instrumental in the fight to abolish the Jim Crow laws that plagued this nation for a century after the end of the Civil War and both men helped end the kind of blatant public segregation that was common as recently as the 1950s and ’60s.

“I had the honor of meeting Rep. John Lewis some years ago and I was struck by his tremendous humility, his wisdom and his enduring view that racial justice and human rights for all are bedrock principals of any just society,” said Metro CEO Phil Washington. “On a more personal note, and as a Black man born in the mid-1900s, I am very aware that the work of men such as Rep. Lewis and Reverend Vivian paved the way for my generation to gain access to many opportunities that may not have been there otherwise. 

“Without the effort of Rep. Lewis, Rev. Vivian and others, I doubt I would have gotten as far as I did in the Army and the transportation industry,” Phil added. “I’m also honored to work in the mobility industry. Our core mission is about providing access to opportunity for all people. Yes, we have work to do on the equity front — like the rest of the society. But I think LA Metro is striving to reach the same goals both of these great Americans spent their lives fighting to realize.”

Rep. John Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986 — the second Black person to be elected to Congress in the state of Georgia since Reconstruction. He became known as the “conscious of Congress” but his relentless drive for equality and human rights had already been on display for decades. He was one of the original “Freedom Riders” who worked to end segregation in the South, he led the infamous march for voting rights across the bridge in Selma, Alabama, and he helped organize and spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to more than 200,000 people.

The Reverend C.T. Vivian was an early civil rights organizer and Baptist minister who worked closely with Dr. King, espousing a nonviolent approach to the movement. His efforts — along with the likes of Rep. Lewis — led to the passage of landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Rev. Vivian was a national director in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s and later in his career founded the Black Action Strategies and Information Center and the the National Anti-Klan Network.

Both Rep. Lewis and Rev. Vivian received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2011 and 2014, respectively, and both men suffered terrible injuries from being attacked by police and others during marches in the 1960s.

To learn more about Rep. John Lewis and his legacy, here is his obituary in the New York Times and here is a link to the new documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble” that is now streaming on demand and here’s a link to an Oprah Winfrey-produced podcast in which Rep. Lewis talks about his life.

To learn more about Rev. C.T. Vivian, here is his obituary in the New York Times and here is a videotaped oral history with Rev. Vivian by the Library of Congress.

For those who want to learn more about Metro’s racial justice programs and initiatives, here is a recent Source post.