In less than 24 hours, this community and the world are in grief over the loss of two iconic leaders in the Civil Rights movement.
On July 17, 2020, the Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian died at the age of 95 and was called to his eternal home. He was a hero for over 70 years, a lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his lifetime, campaigning for voter registration. He brought people together to talk about civil rights and social change in order to make Dr. King and other civil rights leaders more successful in their negotiation for human rights to become a reality.
In 2015, the NAACP organized a five state march from Selma, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia on to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress to reinstate the 1965 Voting Rights Act. At this particular time Rev. Vivian and I talked about how to get more people involved in voter registration. While in Washington, I visited Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue’s office to encourage them to support the extended Voting Rights Act.
On another occasion, I was invited to his 92nd birthday celebration in Atlanta, where I autographed and presented him with my book titled “Excuse Me,” a five star read, a five star history book. This was one of my most memorable moments with him, for he encouraged me to keep on fighting for equality for every American to be free.
I’m also remembering the life of our United States Representative John Lewis, one of the most well-known civil rights icons of all times. As a teenager and for over 60 years he fought for equal rights, voting rights and for all humanity. I, Norris Allen, was not in Selma on March 7, 1965 — which is known as Bloody Sunday — when John Lewis and other leaders made an attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and was assaulted head on by law enforcement from the instructions of Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace. But I heard and read about the march where John Lewis almost lost his life from a severe head injury inflicted by the law enforcers.
I understand that the blood shed was not in vain because later that year the Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. After that time, much other legislation was passed to advance the rights for people of color.
Many times I meet Rep. Lewis. The first time was in 2007, when candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made their first trip to the South for the nomination for president of the United States. Also, in 2008 at the Brother-up Conference at Morehouse College in Atlanta; in 2013 in Washington, D.C., at the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “ I have a dream” speech; again in 2015, marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with President Obama.
The last time I was in his presence was on March 1, 2020, at the 55th anniversary march of Bloody Sunday over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. At this time he had been diagnosed with colon cancer and I said to him that we will be praying for you. I told him that I appreciated his efforts to make a change for race relations in America and his long career in fighting against injustice.
As a civil rights and community leader for over 60 years, I have been fighting against injustice in Rome, Floyd County and the nation. Some of my accomplishments were recorded and documented and some were not. My calling in Floyd County has been in the trenches of the industries, known to be labor forces, until I retired in 1997. Along with the Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian and Rep. John Lewis and other civil rights leaders all over the country, I have fought against injustice, for voter rights, fair housing acts, organized labor and rights for all Americans so that our nation will live up to the true meaning of its creed that all men are created equal.
Bishop Norris Allen