The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a veteran civil rights leader who helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and fought against racial discrimination, died Friday, a family statement said. He was 98.
The Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights released the following statement:
“Our beloved, Rev. Dr. Joseph Echols Lowery, made his transition peacefully at home at 10 p.m., Friday, March 27, at the age of 98. He was surrounded by his daughters.
Hailed as the “Dean of the Civil Rights Movement” upon his receipt of the NAACP’s
Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Lowery had assumed and executed a broad and diverse series of roles over the span of his nine decades: leader, pastor, servant, father, husband, freedom fighter and advocate.
Born in Huntsville, Ala., on October 6, 1921, his legacy of service and struggle was long and rich. His genesis as a civil rights advocate dates to the early 1950s, when he headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, which led the movement to desegregate buses and public accommodations. In 1957, with friend and colleague Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
He served as Vice President (1957-1967), Chairman of the Board (1967-1977), and as President and Chief Executive Officer (1977-1998). To continue his legacy and promote non-violent advocacy among future generations, The Joseph E. Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights was founded in 2002 at Clark Atlanta University. The Institute was later renamed to include and honor Dr. Evelyn Lowery, his beloved partner in marriage and the movement for 67 years.
Calling on his over 40 years as ‘pastor’ and in his inimitable style, Dr. Lowery delivered the benediction on the occasion of President Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States in 2009. Later that year, President Obama awarded him the nation’s highest civilian honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the nonviolent struggle for the causes of justice, human rights, economic equality, voting rights, peace and human dignity.
Please pray and respect the privacy of the entire Lowery family during this difficult time.”