Rev. Joseph Lowery, a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a social justice icon often hailed as the “dean” of the American civil rights movement, died over the weekend of natural causes. He was 98 years old.
Rev. Lowery worked alongside leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson, and played a prominent role in organizing the protests, civil disobedience, and political pressure campaigns that helped combat racial segregation in America in the 1960s. But he didn’t stop there. His life was a life-long testament to the never ending work to battle racial injustice of any kind.
Rev. Lowery was born in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1921 and was inspired to become a civil rights activist after an incident with a white police officer when he was an early teen. He co-founded the SCLC in 1957 and helped coordinate the historic 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, among other protests.
He was respected and called upon by many former presidents. But certainly a highlight for all was when the first black president of the United States, President Barack Obama, asked Rev. Lowery to deliver the benediction at his inauguration in 2009. During the inauguration, Rev. Lowery offered a prayer as part of his blessing: “In the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.”
Six months after the inauguration, President Obama awarded Rev. Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation.
We honor the life and legacy of Rev. Joseph Lowery. Rest in Peace.
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