(Photo Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)

MLK50: King Called "Greatest Man of the 20th Century"

C.T. Vivian Says MLK "Still Our Leader"

Maria Boynton
April 09, 2018 - 12:36 pm

The door opens, and standing before me is the epitomy of the definition of 'debonair'. And his home is just as pristine. Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian's Atlanta residence is wall to wall, and floor to ceiling, with art works, books, and awards that he has collected over his 93 years. Today, he is most proud of a photograph of his friend, who was struck down by an assassin's bullet 50 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Vivian holds the framed, and well-preserved, picture of King close to his breast, as he stares outwardly, as if remembering a long-lost loved one.

On that autographed photo is a message written in, now-fading, pen. It reads, 'Thank you for Vision. Martin Luther King Jr'. What does the photo mean to Vivian? "It means that Martin King, the greatest man of the 20th Century that I was working for, found my work worthy." Vision is the education program that was organized and launched by Vivian the summer after the Selma Movement. It is now known as Upward Bound. "I wanted a way", says Vivian, "for students, not just black students, but all students, to go to college on scholarship." He adds, "We had hundreds of people, and later thousands of people in the educational program that my group created."

Back to April 4, 1968. Vivian remembers being in Chicago, where he had an office. "The radio said that he (King) had been shot. I immediately got up from my desk and started towards my home, because I wanted to go to Memphis where he was. All the way there, they said 'he was shot' about every 15 minutes. Then they said he was killed." According to Vivian, when he got home, he told his wife that he was going to Memphis. "I went straight to the bedroom and started packing things."

By the time Vivian reached Memphis, he remembers that a group of other King associates were still at the (Lorraine) hotel. They were headed out, Vivian was coming in. "They stopped the car and said 'get in'. We parked on the side, and got in, packed in, sitting on laps." He says they went to the funeral home where King's body was."When we saw that the funeral home was getting the work done, we started talking to each other and started planning for the future." Says Vivian, "the overall numbers of people changing told us that the future belonged to us if we continue to struggle, continue to move." He adds, "Martin had brought us so far from beyond what we were like. Things change for the good and all of it was changing."

Vivian says that King was a Man of God. "He spoke well. He was concerned that all of us get involved, that wrong would be righted, because the purpose in life for all of us, at that time, was to end racism and we wanted people to join and they wanted to. So many people of every circumstance, wanted to be a part of it all."

So, how far have we come?

50 years ago, according to Vivian, society said they loved everyone and had churches on every corner. "They were not Christian, because to do that, you wouldn't have to have two churches in a short distance, and one of them black and one of them white. We were changing that. It hasn't been totally changed yet, but it's been partially changed. We have progressed, but not nearly as much as we should."

(Photo Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)