Vivian E. Irving, the daughter of the late Charles G. Irving, Sr. and Mrs. Callie Brown Irving, was born in Raleigh on June 30, 1920, in an era far different than the present time. She resided in and was a leader and active participant in the Raleigh community for the majority of her life. With grace, tenacity, vision and generosity, Vivian spent her life moving people and our community forward. She departed this life on September 14, 2014.
After graduating from Washington High School in 1936, she attended Barber Scotia Junior College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University in 1940. She went on to post-baccalaureate studies at New York University and Carnegie Institute of Technology.
Before commencing a career of more than 50 years as Manager of Irving-Swain Press, Inc., which she co-founded in 1947, Vivian Irving taught at historic DuBois High School in Wake Forest, was a staffer with the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in Washington, D.C. and worked at The Carolinian in Raleigh.
For over 60 years, Vivian Irving actively participated in civic and political life in Raleigh and beyond. Vivian E. Irving was a trailblazer. Beginning in the 1940’s, she created opportunities for dialogue and interactions with gatherings in her home and business when there were few places for African-American and white citizens to meet together.
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Vivian was politically active and encouraged others to be engaged. Vivian was a charter member of the Wake County Democratic Women and worked on publications and other pursuits of the organization. She was a Registrar for the Wake County Board of Elections for 30 years and was active in voter registration drives.
She worked vigorously to break down barriers, integrate organizations and promote open-mindedness. In June 1999, the League of Women Voters presented her with a Life-Time Membership Award for “Courage in integrating the Raleigh League of Women Voters when she became the first African-American member in 1955.” In April 2000, the Civil Rights Exhibit at the Raleigh City Museum was dedicated to Vivian E. Irving “for her effective tenacity and quiet courageous work in the area of Civil Rights.”
Vivian’s areas of community service have been far-reaching including Board membership with the Friends of the College, the Wake County Library Board, the Executive Board of the NC Division of the American Cancer Society, the Raleigh-Wake County Citizens Association, the NAACP, the Raleigh City Museum; and committee membership with the Institute of Religion, the Battleship Commission, the Martin Luther King Memorial Gardens Committee, the Democratic Women of Wake County, the League of Women Voters, the Raleigh Bicentennial Commission and the Raleigh Chapter of Links, Inc. She received numerous awards and citations for her community service.
Vivian loved to travel and enjoyed touring the country and world with family and friends. Although she left the classroom to manage Irving-Swain Press, Inc., Vivian never stopped teaching and guiding children. She founded the Four C and G Educational Tour Group and led trips for a number of years for hundreds of children to the White House, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and other destinations.
In 2006, Vivian and her father, the late Charles G. Irving, Sr. were named to the Raleigh Hall of Fame’s second class of inductees “for their advocacy on behalf of social justice and for their service as community leaders in the civil rights movement for most of the 20th Century.”
Vivian reached out to and embraced a wide circle of people. She deeply loved and cared for her family, friends and high school and college classmates and she expressed that love and care through lifelong fidelity, gracious hospitality, genuine interest in the well-being of others and generosity of spirit.
Vivian Irving is survived by her sister, Florence Irving Francis and her sister-in-law, Ophelia M. Irving of Raleigh; her niece Cyretha Irving Knobloch (Oliver) of Crans-pres-Celigny, Switzerland; her nephews, Charles T. Francis (Marvea) of Raleigh and Garrick C. Francis (Sheila) of Washington, D.C.; five great nieces and nephews; and many cousins. She was predeceased by her brother, Charles G. Irving, Jr.
Funeral Service will be held tomorrow, Saturday, Sept 20 at Davie Street Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Davie Street in downtown Raleigh. The Wake and Family Visitation will be held at 10:30 am and funeral service will start at 11:00 am. Burial will follow in Carolina Biblical Gardens. Professional services have been entrusted to Lightner Funeral in Raleigh.