Civil Rights leaders, politicians mourn loss of Evelyn Lowery

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Evelyn Lowery, wife of fellow civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery, poses for a photo at the SCLC Woman center which she founded and chaired, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

by Jeff Martin
Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — Evelyn Lowery, the wife of civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, died Thursday, a family spokeswoman said. She was 88.

Spokeswoman Diane Larche said Evelyn Lowery died in the morning at her home in Georgia. She had been hospitalized since Sept. 18 after suffering a severe stroke. She returned home Wednesday night, after medical experts said the stroke had done irreversible damage.

Evelyn Lowery devoted her life to serving others, her husband said in a statement to The Associated Press.

 

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Former Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Dr. Joseph Lowery and his wife Evelyn attend a memorial service at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Evelyn Lowery founded SCLC/WOMEN Inc. in 1979. The group works to empower women, girls and families. She also created the Drum Major of Justice Awards held annually in April in Atlanta.

“She was a wonderful mother and wife, and I thank God that she didn’t suffer any pain and that I was blessed having her as my partner, my confidant and my best friend for close to 70 years,” he said. “I will miss her each and every day, but as a man of faith, I know that she is with her God.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Joseph Lowery, a former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and his wife were in Birmingham, Ala., earlier this month for the 50th anniversary of a racist church bombing that killed four black girls in 1963.

STATEMENT FROM THE LOWERY FAMILY

Since the passing of Mrs. Evelyn G. Lowery during the early hours of Thursday morning, the Lowery family has spent time surrounded by family and friends as they continue to deal with the un-timely loss of their beloved Evelyn.

“At this time, the family is finalizing plans for my mothers home-going celebration, as we are committed to making it an occasion that will commemorate the life and legacy of this giant of a woman. We continue to thank the community for its continued outpouring of love and support.  Once arrangements have been finalized, all official communications will continue to be released by Larche’ Communications on behalf of our family.” stated Cheryl Lowery, the youngest daughter of Mrs. Evelyn Lowery and civil rights leaders Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and the Executive Director of the Joseph E. Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights at Clark Atlanta University.

In response to Evelyn Lowery’s passing, the NAACP released the following statements from Chairman Roslyn M. Brock and President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous:

“A pioneer and champion in the civil rights movement has passed on,” said Brock. “Evelyn Lowery’s leadership was essential to the longevity and power behind the movement for equality. Ms. Lowery was a drum major for justice in her own right. Her spirit lives on in the initiatives she founded and in the activists she mentored across the nation.”

“Today, we mourn the passing of a champion for civil and human rights,” said Jealous. “Ms. Lowery’s foresight and leadership pushed the envelope of what organizations like the SCLC and the NAACP could do for women and families. Her legacy lives on in the coalitions she built and the strong foundation she laid. She was a hero and will be truly missed.”

Evelyn Lowery, who marched with her husband from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., as part of the struggle for equal rights, also founded SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc.) to champion the rights of women, children, families, and their ability to respond to issues affecting the community. Through that organization she spearheaded education and mentoring programs, HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives, and built coalitions and alliances with various women’s groups across the globe. She also created the Drum Major for Justice Award, which recognizes awardees for their contributions to the civil rights movement and achievements in their professional fields.

Janice Mathis, Vice President for Legal Affairs at Rainbow PUSH Coalition, who oversees Atlanta’s branch of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s organization, also issued a statement on Lowery’s passing.

“In many ways she was ahead of her time,” said Mathis. “She recognized the scourge of HIV as a moral issue long before the Black church embraced it. She insisted on honoring the history of the civil rights rebellion when few understood its significance. But for me she was a woman out of time. Or beyond time. She achieved something many women find elusive – a successful marriage and the freedom to chart her own course and speak with her own voice. She is a role model for my generation and for the ages.”

In addition to members of the civil rights community, politicians from around the state of Georgia extended their condolences, including members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Ms. Lowery, a civic leader who dedicated her life to selfless service for women and children. My thoughts and prayers are with her family,” said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. “Mrs. Lowery annually hosted the Drum Major for Justice Awards, but it is she who led the way. Her legacy will continue to live on through SCLC/W.O.M.E.N by inspiring women all over the world to continue fighting for equality. I am honored to have known her. She transformed lives, including my own.”

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) released the following statement on news of her death:

“Mrs. Lowery was a devoted mother, wife and friend who exemplified the strength of purpose that has marked the life that she and Dr. Lowery built and shared throughout their more than 65 years of marriage. Her life’s work fighting AIDS, preserving history, protecting the health and welfare of our communities and her tireless efforts strengthening black families is her legacy. America has lost a great patriot for truth and justice. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to Dr. Lowery, their children, and the family.”

John Eaves, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, also released a statement on Mrs. Lowery’s passing, noting:

“Our hearts are heavy upon learning of the passing of Mrs. Evelyn Lowery today. When you think of Mrs. Lowery, the quote that says behind every successful man, there is a strong, wise and hardworking woman comes to mind. While her husband, Reverend Joseph Lowery is a civil rights icon in his own right, Ms. Lowery was right there by his side in the fight for racial equality as founder of SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. Our prayers and thoughts are with Dr. Lowery and the Lowery family and we express our deepest condolences.”

 

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