Waking up with the news that Congressman John Lewis had passed brought tears of sadness as did the news of Rev. C.T. Vivian’s passing. Both civil rights icons died July 17.

We have lost two giants of the civil rights movement. Our souls grieve.

I met John Lewis when he was running for Congress against Atlanta NAACP President Julian Bond. Even though we were on different teams, he showed me how to respect those differences. I had read about him from the Selma bridge beating and asked him about it. He was most gracious in taking the time to enlighten me on those times of much hate in this country.

From that conversation was born a longstanding relationship. After I became president of the Cobb County Branch of the NAACP, he would always greet me as “Ms. Cobb County.”

Congressman Lewis appeared on Marietta Square with us at our Annual Juneteenth Celebration encouraging citizens to go to the polls and vote.

I requested and received from him invites to Washington events: the special President Barack Obama events, the annual Congressional Black Caucus Convention celebrations, passes for White House tours and local contacts with his state office. We always received responses and followup when we sent legislation requests to his office.

Congressman Lewis will be missed, but his legacy will be with us forever. I will join the campaign to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the John Lewis Bridge.

John Lewis, we thank you for your service.

I met the Rev. Vivian when he came to Marietta to teach a class on conflict resolution at Kennesaw Avenue Baptist Church. The Rev. Collins, the pastor, had invited citizens to attend.

Vivian gave us lessons on how to advocate in a non-violent way.

He and I became comrades because I was selected to follow up with him on what our next steps would be here in Cobb.

Direct contact was established and I learned and followed his teachings, serving on panels, being the Cobb representative on classes. We enjoyed years of fellowship.

He was SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and I was with the NAACP. We shared common goals.

My most recent interaction was when Vivian and I both received awards last year here in Cobb at the Cobb Ministerial Alliance dinner at the NW Marriott.

Rev. C.T. always greeted you with the warmest smile in the world.

A gentle intellect. We will miss you. Rest in power.

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, residents need trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by purchasing a digital subscription. Your subscription will allow you unlimited access to important local news stories. Our mission is to keep our community informed and we appreciate your support.

Deane Bonner is former president of the Cobb County branch of the NAACP.