By ELLA TORRES, ABC News
(ATLANTA) — Civil rights pioneer Rev. C.T. Vivian, known for helping end segregation in the South and his close allyship with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was laid to rest Thursday.
Vivian died last Friday at the age of 95.
His funeral began at 11 a.m. at the Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where he died.
He was remembered for his work that “helped forever change our nation,” presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said in a video message.
Biden was one of a handful who spoke on Vivian’s legacy, also including his friends, family and Oprah Winfrey.
“In his presence, we were always learning more about our country, about ourselves,” Winfrey said in a video message.
Calling him a “giant for justice,” Winfrey said, “We are better because he existed.”
Vivian participated in the first sit-ins to end segregation in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 and led the first march of the Civil Rights movement. During the sit-ins, Vivian was joined by John Robert Lewis, a civil rights icon who went on to become a congressman, according to the History Makers. Lewis died last Friday at the age of 80.
In Birmingham, Vivian’s work helped to enact the Civil Rights Bill and in Selma; the Voting Rights Bill.
Prior to that, in Peoria, Illinois, he was part of the effort to end segregation at lunch counters and successfully integrated restaurants in the 1940s.
King later asked Vivian to join the executive staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where King was the first president, and the two organized the Freedom Riders.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 by former President Barack Obama. Vivian provided civil rights counsel to Obama, as well as former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
His two sons, Mark E. Vivian and Al Vivian, also spoke — remembering Vivian not just as an icon, but their dad.
“How do you adequately say goodbye to the greatest person you have ever known,” Al Vivian said.
Mark E. Vivian said the greatest pleasure he had in life “was to call him dad.”
“I had somebody when I needed advice, when I needed looking up to, when I needed just to hear somebody say I love you,” he continued.
He and other family members also spoke about Vivian’s relationship with his late wife Octavia and how much he adored her.
Mark E. Vivian said, “the greatest thing” his father ever showed him was how to be a husband.
“How to love your wife, be there for here…That’s the person you pull your strength for,” he said.
His son concluded his remarks through tears, with a final message to his father: “All I can say I love you. Nothing better than you.”
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