Rev. Joseph Echols Lowery
“I read about and witnessed from afar the great story & works of this incredible & great man, Rev Joseph E. Lowery… civil rights legend who’s lifetime of bloody and battered footsteps, I am humbled to be able to walk in and enjoy the life we all live. ..And then one magical day…while sitting in church service w/ my wife & our two children at Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Ga…
He entered…. I completely stunned, overwhelmed when Rev. Lowery along with his beautiful late wife, Evelyn came in and sat right next to us! I couldn’t believe it! This hero & legend of the civil rights movement who has been honored by kings, queens and presidents leaned into me and said to me, “Boy you sure got lucky, didn’t ya…to be able to marrying up, didn’t ya LOL!
What developed from that moment on & throughout the years was a time honored mentorship of guidance and care of my life ..So My Dear Friend, you often spoke of both privately & publicly of going home to heaven to be with your beloved wife Evelyn & those u served wit, but we sure will miss our chats on the pew. Goodnight sweet Prince. Rest in peace…We’ll see you soon.”
Your Brother, Friend and…pew mate,
DEAN OF CIVIL RIGHTS
Rev. Joseph Echols Lowery
October 6, 1921 – March 27, 2020
Was an American minister in the United Methodist Church and leader in the civil rights movement. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr. and others, serving as its vice president, later chairman of the board, and from 1977 to 1997 its president. Lowery participated in most of the major activities of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and continued his civil rights work into the 21st century. He was called the “Dean of the Civil Rights Movement.”
In 2009, Lowery received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama.
Honoring The Reverend Joseph Echols Lowery
Benediction at Inauguration of President Barak Obama
Reverend Lowery, tells his personal Sit-In Story
Joseph E. Lowery
Born to Leroy and Dora Lowery on October 6, 1921. His mother was a teacher and his father owned a small business in Alabama.
When he was 11, he was abused and punched by a white police officer, for not getting off the sidewalk as a white man was passing. Lowery ran home to get a gun, but his father arrived and talked him out of it. His family sent him away while he attended middle school in Chicago staying with relatives, but he returned to Huntsville, Alabama, to complete William Hooper Council High School. He attended the Knoxville College and Alabama A&M College. Lowery graduated from Paine College. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
He attended ministerial training at Payne Theological Seminary and later on, he completed a Doctor of Divinity degree at the Chicago Ecumenical Institute. He married Evelyn Gibson in 1950, a civil rights activist and leader in her own right. She was the sister of the late Harry Gibson, an activist, and elder member of the Northern Illinois conference of the United Methodist Church, Chicago area. She died on September 26, 2013. They had three daughters: Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery, and Cheryl Lowery-Osborne. Lowery also had two sons, Joseph Jr. and LeRoy III, from an earlier marriage to Agnes Moore.
American Civil Rights Career
Lowery was pastor of the Warren Street Methodist Church, in Mobile, Alabama, from 1952 to 1961. His career in the Civil Rights Movement took off in the early 1950s. After Rosa Parks’ arrest in 1955, he helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott. He headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. In 1957, along with Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth, and others, Lowery founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and subsequently led the organization as its president from 1977 to 1997.
Lowery’s car and other property, along with that of other civil rights leaders, was seized in 1959 by the State of Alabama to pay damages resulting from a libel suit. The Supreme Court of the United States later reversed this decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. At the request of King, Lowery participated in the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965. He was a co-founder and president of the Black Leadership Forum, a consortium of black advocacy groups. This Forum protested the existence of Apartheid in South Africa from the mid-1970s through the end of white minority rule there. Lowery was among the first five black men to be arrested outside the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., during the Free South Africa movement. He served as the pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta from 1986 through 1992, adding over a thousand members and leaving the church with 10 acres of land.
To honor him, the city government of Atlanta renamed Ashby Street for him. Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard is just west of downtown Atlanta and runs north-south beginning at West Marietta Street near the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology and stretching to White Street in the “West End” neighborhood, running past Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Morris Brown College.
Lowery advocated for LGBT civil rights, including civil unions and, in 2012, same-sex marriage.
Lowery meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in 2011 Lowery received several awards. The NAACP gave him their Lifetime Achievement Award at its 1997 convention calling him the “dean of the civil rights movement”. He received the inaugural Walter P. Reuther Humanitarian Award from Wayne State University in 2003. He has also received the Martin Luther King Jr. Center Peace Award and the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2004. Ebony named him one of the 15 greatest black preachers, describing him as, “the consummate voice of biblical social relevancy, a focused voice, speaking truth to power.” Lowery also received several honorary doctorates from colleges and universities including, Dillard University, Morehouse College, Alabama State University, University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Emory University. In 2004, Lowery was honored at the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, located in Atlanta, Georgia.