Civil Rights champion Father Nicholas Vieron dies at 94

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphians are remembering the legacy of Rev. Father Nicholas Vieron after he passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 94.

Vieron, who led Memphis’ Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church from 1955 to 1991, was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement.

“He played a very vital and indispensable role,” said Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey Jr., who was also active in the fight for civil rights.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, Vieron came to Memphis in 1955 to take up his role as parish priest. He also chaired the Race Relations Committee.

“Segregation was pervasive and he and members of the clergy such as himself made it a point … we got to get away from this segregated, hostile environment of black and white,” Bailey said.

In 1968, Vieron served as mediator between striking sanitation workers and city leaders. And when Martin Luther King was assassinated, he immediately sought to heal a wounded city.

“He went to the black pastors and said to them, you know, got down on his knees and asked for forgiveness for what somebody of his race had down,” said Rev. Father Simon Thomas, the current leader of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.

Vieron retired from leadership of the church in 1991, but Thomas said he continued to play an active role. He led a prayer at Sunday service as recently as this year.

Funeral arrangements haven’t been announced but because of Covid-19, the church said the funeral will be limited to family. They plan to stream the service.

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