Atlanta remembers Civil Rights icons John Lewis and C.T. Vivian ahead of funeral services | News

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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) — Hundreds of people of all races and backgrounds united as they marched to John Lewis’ on Auburn Avenue to pay their respects with flowers, candles, and heartfelt messages.

“I just think of consistency, fighting the good fight of understanding what it meant to get in good trouble, necessary trouble,” said local Scotty Smart.

The civil rights icon was a recognized congressman and true hero.

Lewis’ death sent shock waves through the Atlanta community and nation.

“That was like a big blow, and you know, now we’re just trying to take what he was trying to show us and move on up the mountain with it,” said one person. 

Willie A. Watkins of Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home met John Lewis about 20 years ago.

“He always said he’s going to beat it like he had done everything else in his life. It was just a shock,” explained Watkins when discussing Lewis’ battle with pancreatic cancer..

Watkins Funeral Home will be hosting Lewis’s viewing. Funeral Director Darrell E. Watkins said now is the time for the youth to stand up and lead.

“The baton needs to be passed. The question is who will pick up the baton,” said Darrell.

Acknowledging the call to action, Atlanta’s youth are stepping up. i

“We are all carrying the torch, we are carrying the mantle and so what he has created lives through all of us here,” said Alfred Shivy Brooks.

Iconic civil rights leader C.T. Vivian also passed on the same day as Lewis, July 20, and will be laid to rest this week. Together the two men were towering figures of the civil right movement.

Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home said the sendoff for each of the distinguished men will be a celebration of life, impact and unity for a grieving community.

“Who would’ve thought that these two legends would pass away within 18 hours of each other,” said Darrell. “We pray for their families first and foremost, and we pray for this nation.” 

“When this is all over, only thing we’ll have left is the memories, and we want to create the atmosphere,” Watkins said.

He and his team will be doing just that, creating memories for a grieving family and community.

On Wednesday from 12-3 p.m. C.T. Vivian will lie in the Capitol Rotunda. Following at 3:15 p.m. Willie A. Watkins Funeral home will hold a Freedom Rider Last Mile where they will take C.T. Vivian on a horse drawn carriage from Woodruff Park, down Auburn Ave., make a stop at Southern Christian Leadership Conference Organization and end at the King center.

On Thursday, Vivian’s private funeral will be held at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. The church will provide a live stream for the public. beginning at 11 a.m.

“If people desire to come and stand outside of the church, certainly 6 feet apart, they’re welcome to do so,” said Darrell.

Locals say it’s a funeral they refuse to miss.

“I hope that one day I could follow in their footsteps, but I guess just by paying my respects I’m doing that,” said Richard Wilson.

“We can’t let this opportunity pass, because even though COVID out here, hey if we do what we need to do I feel like we’ll be fine,” Will canon III said.

Vivian’s final resting place is at Westview Cemetery.

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