NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A passion for life and civil rights drove C.T Vivian.

Vivian died Friday, but his legacy won't soon be forgotten. 

In 1960, he came to Nashville in the middle of the downtown sit-ins where blacks were refused service at lunch counters and even met with violence.

“We stood up to it because it was evil, I don’t mean it was bad it was evil.” Vivian said. 

Vivian stood at the courthouse next to then-Nashville Mayor Ben West. One Fisk student, Diane Nash, proceeded to ask Mayor West how he could support such discrimination.

He could not!

Shortly after the restaurants opened to all, Vivian pushed intensely for equal rights for the remainder of his life.

His efforts earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the countries highest civilian honor, from President Obama.

The only regret Vivian had was not starting the fight sooner.

“The only thing we did wrong was stay in the wilderness a day too long," he said.

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Terry Bulger has been bringing you stories of the people and places that make Tennessee unique and interesting on News4 since 1990. Contact Terry if you have an interesting community story for him to cover.

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