‘Dean of Civil Rights Movement’ Rev. Joseph Lowery Dies at 98


Civil rights legend Rev. Joseph E. Lowery passed away on Friday night at his home in Atlanta.

Lowery was surrounded by his daughters when he “made his transition peacefully,” around 10 p.m., according to family spokesman Imara Canady. Canady requested privacy for the family.

Known as the “dean of the civil rights movement,” Lowery spent decades working for the Black liberation struggle. Joseph Echols Lowery was born on Oct. 16, 1921, in Huntsville, Alabama, to a small business owner and A seamstress. He was drawn to the movement after an encounter with a white police officer when he was a preteen.

Rev. Joseph E. Lowery passed away at his Atlanta home on March 27, 2020. He was 98 years old. (Photo: Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

“A big white policeman was coming in, and he punched me in the stomach with his nightstick,” Lowery recalled to The Atlanta Tribune in 2004.

“He said, ‘Get back n—–. Don’t you see a white man coming in the door?'”

Lowery became an ordained minister after he graduated from college. He co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and served as its president from 1977 to 1998. In 1965, he chaired the delegation of the Selma-to-Montgomery march responsible to delivering a list of demands to former Alabama governor George Wallace, according to CNN. He was among the marchers assaulted during “Bloody Sunday.”

The reverend received numerous accolades throughout his storied life, including almost a dozen honorary doctorates and several achievement awards. In 2009, President Barack Obama presented Lowery with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. About six months before, Lowery had given the benediction at Obama’s inauguration.

In addition to civil rights, Lowery spoke out on other issues, including apartheid, strife in the Middle East and LGBTQ rights.

Lowery married his wife Evelyn in 1950 and the couple remained together until her death in 2013. They had three daughters together, and Lowery had two sons from a previous marriage.

Social media was flooded with tributes to Lowery.

“It’s hard to imagine a world or an Atlanta without Reverend #JosephLowery. I’m grateful for a life well-lived and for its influence on mine. I’ll miss you, Uncle Joe. You finally made it up to see Aunt Evelyn again,” wrote Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter.

“Rev. Joseph Lowery was one of those leaders in our history who expanded the moral imagination of our country. He committed his life to the cause of equality — unrelentingly confronting bigotry to advance justice. We are forever indebted to him for his work,” tweeted Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“With the passing of Rev. Joseph Lowery, the world lost a spiritual leader – a sage who understood that politics did not stand separate from who we are but told the story of who we are willing to be,” tweeted former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “May God’s face smile upon his newest angel, peace to his beloveds.”

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