Mayor John Cooper’s Press Briefing
Thursday, July 23, 2020
9:30 a.m.
Nashville, TN
Presentation by Dr. Forrest E. Harris, Sr.
President, American Baptist College

Thank you Mayor Cooper.

Beginning today in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., Americans around the country will participate in ceremonies celebrating the life of two giants of humanitarian justice, civil and human rights, the Reverend Dr. Cordy Tindell (C.T.) Vivian and U. S. Congressman John Robert Lewis.

We cannot account for divine providence to have nationally and internationally recognized icons of the civil rights movement, recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, that their long extraordinary public life of service began here in Nashville at American Baptist College.

Here the discovery of a moral compass for justice courageously guided them to confront the segregation culture of Nashville’s lunch counters.

Afterward, the freedom rides, successfully integrating interstate bus travel. They marched—non-violently—into the cradle of the Confederacy for the right to vote. Bloodied on the front lines, jailed many times, they gave their bodies as collateral—as living sacrifices to “redeem the soul of America.”

In the face of imminent danger, their spiritual endowments showed America the power of moral authority to achieve a more just nation. On occasions, confident they would meet death in the cause for justice, they signed their wills. They challenged, inspired, and confronted America with simple words in their moral character: dignity, love, one humanity – equal votes, equal souls– bodies broken, yet spirit unbound-they advanced freedom.

They showed us what the work of justice looks like, how to do it, and how to extend justice in the nation and world. Similar to and befitting of the prophetic courage, compassion, and love ethic amplified before them in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., they continued pursuing goals of the beloved community.

John Lewis carried the vision into the halls of the United States Congress more than three decades. C.T. Vivian gave voice to the vision as a justice consultant, activist civic engager, public intellectual, and theological educator. They provide us an inspiring example of ethical service and leadership, inspiration for today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Because their illustrious public service for justice began here, telling and retelling their powerful stories belong primarily to Nashville. We cherish the memory of these gentle warriors of justice, class acts of unpretentious chivalry, profiles in courage, healers for the nation’s racial animus that yet divide the country.

American Baptist College’s commitment is to join Nashville as a responsible steward of their legacies, advancing the mission of justice for which they gave their lives.

Sixteen years apart in birth, dying on the same day, they leave flaming legacies, a lighted path future generation may walk in to achieve a better America and world.  

Finally, please join us for an ABC Community Conversation on the John Lewis Documentary, “Good Trouble,” Sunday at 5:45 p.m. on Facebook live, or visit our website for information.

Thank you.