(WBIR) Many gathered in East Knoxville to celebrate an important anniversary Thursday and hear from an esteemed Civil Rights leader.

Dozens gathered at Payned Avenue Church to recognize the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Reverend C. T. Vivian spoke to the crowd; he was a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Thursday's meeting was reminiscent of the mass meetings that were a core organizing tool of the Civil Rights Movement.

People at the church were thrilled to have Reverend Vivian here in Knoxville.

"He's a good friend of one of our local legends Avon Rollins, so with that, coming together was bringing them two back together to share, to share with us their journey through the Civil Rights Movement and the things that they did in order to have the rights that we have today," said Joshalyn Hundley, the City of Knoxville equal business opportunity coordinator.

The Civil Rights Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 19, 1964. President Lyndon Johnson would sign it into law just a few days later on July 2nd.