Local activist remembers fighting for civil rights alongside Rev. C.T. Vivian, Congressman John Lewis

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On Friday, the nation lost two giants of the civil rights movement. Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis were among the architects of the strategy which ultimately led to desegregation in this country.

Diane Nash of Chicago was also among the pioneers and driving forces of that campaign.

A pillar of the civil rights movement, Nash is mourning the loss of two of her fellow icons, Rev. C.T. Vivian and Congressman John Lewis. Both died within 24-hours of each other on Friday.

On Friday, the nation lost two giants of the civil rights movement who were among the architects of the strategy which ultimately led to desegregation in this country.



"I have been friends and co-workers with both of them all of my adult life, and I feel so fortunate and so privileged to have had them in my life," Nash said.

Nash was a student at Fisk University in Nashville when they began planning the lunch-counter sit-ins and the freedom rides to end segregation.

"One thing I remember about John was how frequently he came to meetings with bandages on his head and I guess that's when I first got confirmation of how serious he was about the movement and ending segregation," she said.

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But she stresses they all were still very young.

"One of my favorite memories of John was his smile and there was a boyishness, a boyish quality about his smile and his personality. He would dance and he would sing," Nash recalled.

She also says Vivian was a poetry lover.

"There were many sides to his personality. He was extremely pleasant and calm, but when necessary, C.T. was no-nonsense," she said.

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She recalled one time when a criminal perpetrator infiltrated a movement meeting at a church.

"He was about to sit in one of the minister's chairs when C.T. had had enough and physically escorted him out. C.T. could be very serious when necessary," Nash said.

Nash says that the brave group stepped forward when there was no way other to get things done.

"Suppose we in the South had waited for elected officials to desegregate the lunch counters, restaurants, and interstate buses and get the right to vote. I think now, 60 years later, we might still be, we would still be waiting," Nash said.

She says the recent non-violent campaign for social change is perhaps the greatest legacy of the legends who have now left the fight.

"They lived their lives excellently. They used their time well and you couldn't ask for better people. They don't exist," she said.

Nash is now 82 years old and still calls Chicago her home.
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