Thomas Jefferson officially renamed Dr. C.T. Vivian Primary School in ceremony Friday

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Thomas Jefferson Primary School in Peoria has been renamed for a civil rights leader with local roots.

Dr. C.T. Vivian was a preacher and civil rights leader who led a 1947 sit-in that successfully integrated Barton’s Cafeteria in Peoria. He was also one of Martin Luther King’s closest advisors. Dr. King purportedly called Vivian “the greatest preacher to ever live.”

Peoria Public School Board Members on Friday morning unveiled the new nameplate before members of Vivian family.

“I would not be standing here today if it wasn’t for men and women like C.T. Vivian for creating a roadmap for people that look like me,” said PPS Board President Gregory Wilson “C.T. Vivian’s legacy will continue to impact our nation and future generations. The marathon of social justice and equality will continue.”

Vivian was originally from Missouri, but grew up in Macomb, Ill. and attended Western Illinois University.

Vivian’s daughter JoJo said streets in Macomb have been named after her father, but a school is particularly special.

“We’ve always been taught in our family that education is something that no one can take from you, so consequently this is even a greater honor,” she said.

Vivian’s son Al said renaming the school from a founding father to a civil rights leader is a metaphor for America’s progression to a more perfect union.

“This is a perfect transition – it is helping us live out what America was founded to do, now making those rights for all of us,” he said. “Change is not a bad thing if it’s the right kind of change. Change that leads to who we say we are, that is good change.”

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