The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery fought to finish segregation, lived to see the election of the nation’s first black president and echoed the decision for “justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” in America.
For greater than 4 many years after the dying of his buddy and civil rights icon, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the fiery Alabama preacher was on the entrance line of the battle for equality, with an unforgettable supply that rivaled King’s — and was usually extra unpredictable. Lowery had a knack for chopping to the core of the nation’s conscience with commentary steeped in scripture, refusing to again down whether or not the viewers was a Jim Crow racist or a U.S. president.
“We ask you to assist us work for that day when black won’t be requested to get in again; when brown can stick round; when yellow might be mellow; when the crimson man can get forward, man; and when white will embrace what is true,” Lowery prayed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural benediction in 2009.
Lowery, 98, died Friday at dwelling in Atlanta, surrounded by relations, they mentioned in an announcement.
He died from pure causes unrelated to the Corona Virus outbreak, the assertion mentioned.
“Tonight, the good Reverend Joseph E. Lowery transitioned from earth to eternity,” The King Center in Atlanta remembered Lowery in a Friday night time tweet. “He was a champion for civil rights, a challenger of injustice, a pricey buddy to the King household.”
Lowery led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for 20 years — restoring the group’s monetary stability and pressuring companies to not commerce with South Africa’s apartheid-era regime — earlier than retiring in 1997.
America in ‘strategy of being born once more’
Considered the dean of civil rights veterans, he lived to have a good time a November 2008 milestone that few of his motion colleagues thought they might ever witness — the election of an African-American president.
At an emotional victory celebration for President-elect Barack Obama in Atlanta, Lowery mentioned, “America tonight is within the strategy of being born once more.”
An early and enthusiastic supporter of Obama over then-Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, Lowery additionally gave the benediction at Obama’s inauguration.
“We thanks for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to encourage our nation to imagine that, sure, we are able to work collectively to realize a extra good union,” he mentioned.
In 2009, Obama awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
In one other high-profile second, Lowery drew a standing ovation at the 2006 funeral of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, when he criticized the conflict in Iraq, saying, “For conflict, billions extra, however no extra for the poor.” The remark additionally drew head shakes from then-President George Bush and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, who have been seated behind the pulpit.
Lowery’s involvement in civil rights grew naturally out of his Christian religion. He usually preached that racial discrimination in housing, employment and well being care was at odds with such elementary Christian values as human price and the brotherhood of man.
“I’ve by no means felt your ministry must be completely devoted to creating a heavenly dwelling. I assumed it must also be devoted to creating your house right here heavenly,” he as soon as mentioned.
Lowery remained lively in preventing points akin to conflict, poverty and racism lengthy after retirement, and survived prostate most cancers and throat surgical procedure after he beat Jim Crow.
His spouse, Evelyn Gibson Lowery, who labored alongside her husband of almost 70 years and served as head of SCLC/WOMEN, died in 2013.
“I’ll miss you, Uncle Joe. You lastly made it as much as see Aunt Evelyn once more,” King’s daughter, Bernice King, mentioned in a tweet Friday night time.
It’s tough to think about a world or an Atlanta with out Reverend <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/JosephLowery?src=hash&ref_src=twsrcpercent5Etfw”>#JosephLowery</a>. I’m grateful for a life well-lived and for its affect on mine. I’ll miss you, Uncle Joe. You lastly made it as much as see Aunt Evelyn once more. ❤️ <a href=”https://t.co/WZK10uKjeY”>pic.twitter.com/WZK10uKjeY</a>
Lowery was pastor of the Warren Street Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama, within the 1950s when he met King, who then lived in Montgomery, Alabama. Lowery’s conferences with King, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and different civil rights activists led to the SCLC’s formation in 1957. The group grew to become a number one power within the civil rights wrestle of the 1960s.
Lowery grew to become SCLC president in 1977 following the resignation of Abernathy, who had taken the job after King was assassinated in 1968. He took over an SCLC that was deeply in debt and shedding members quickly. Lowery helped the group survive and guided it on a brand new course that embraced extra mainstream social and financial insurance policies.
Praised for participation in marches
Coretta Scott King as soon as mentioned Lowery “has led extra marches and been within the trenches greater than anybody since Martin.”
He was arrested in 1983 in North Carolina for protesting the dumping of poisonous wastes in a predominantly black county and in 1984 in Washington whereas demonstrating towards apartheid.
He recalled a 1979 confrontation in Decatur, Alabama, when he and others have been protesting the case of a mentally disabled black man charged with rape. He recalled that bullets whizzed inches above their heads and a gaggle of Klan members confronted them.
“I may hear them go ‘whoosh,'” Lowery mentioned. “I’ll always remember that. I nearly died 24 miles from the place I used to be born.”
In the mid-1980s, he led a boycott that persuaded the Winn-Dixie grocery chain to cease promoting South African canned fruit and frozen fish when that nation was within the grip of apartheid.
He additionally continued to induce blacks to train their hard-won rights by registering to vote.
“Black folks want to grasp that the proper to vote was not a present of our political system however got here because of blood, sweat and tears,” he mentioned in 1985.
Like King, Lowery juggled his civil rights work with ministry. He pastored United Methodist church buildings in Atlanta for many years and continued preaching lengthy after retiring.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1921, Joseph Echols Lowery grew up in a Methodist church the place his great-grandfather, the Rev. Howard Echols, was the primary black pastor. Lowery’s father, a grocery retailer proprietor, usually protested racism in the neighborhood.
After faculty, Lowery edited a newspaper and taught faculty in Birmingham, however the concept of turning into a minister “simply stored gnawing and gnawing at me,” he mentioned. After marrying Evelyn Gibson, a Methodist preacher’s daughter, he started his first pastorate in Birmingham in 1948.
In a 1998 interview, Lowery mentioned he was optimistic that true racial equality would at some point be achieved.
“I imagine within the remaining triumph of righteousness,” he mentioned. “The Bible says weeping could endure for an evening, however pleasure cometh within the morning.”
A member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Lowery is survived by his three daughters, Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery and Cheryl Lowery-Osborne.