ABOVE PHOTO: Reverend Joseph Lowery, right, escorts his wife Evelyn to a waiting limousine as marchers on the way to Washington D.C. complete a short walk at the start of their journey, Monday, April 20, 1982 in Tuskegee, AL. The journey was continued in vehicles from this point.
By David Stokes and Hazel Trice Edney
America’s civil rights community is in mourning this week upon the death of Evelyn Gibson Lowery, 88, wife of civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was a heroine in her own right.
“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman whose life was committed to service, especially around issues of empowering women. 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 confidante and my best friend for close to 70 years,” Rev. Lowery said in an article published by the Atlanta Inquirer.
“I will miss her each and every day, but as a man of faith, I know that she is with her God. My entire family has been overwhelmed by the continuous outpourings of love, support and prayers that have come from across the country, and we ask for your continued prayers over the next few days.”
Mrs. Lowery, founder and board chair of SCLC/WOMEN (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), Inc., died Thursday, Sept. 26, while resting at their southwest Atlanta home after suffering a massive stroke. She had left a local hospital after doctors asserted there was nothing more medically that could be done for her.
The schedule of events to celebrate her life and legacy this week included a public viewing on Monday, Sept. 30, from 11 AM to 9 PM. at Cascade United Methodist Church, 3144 Cascade Road in Atlanta. The homegoing celebration was slated for Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College. Wednesday’s viewing was scheduled for 9 AM to 10:30 AM. The celebration will begin at 11 AM.
The outpouring of statements in her memory began immediately upon the news of her death.
“Evelyn, the beloved wife of Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery impacted numerous lives,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “She held a deep passion for empowering women and was a staunch advocate for women, children and families. Against many odds, she, and her husband, Rev. Lowery, were indeed leaders and foot soldiers in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s, 1960s and beyond.
PHOTO: Evelyn Lowery, wife of fellow civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery, poses for a photo at the SCLC Woman center which she founded and chairs, in Atlanta. Lowery, the wife of civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, has died, a family spokeswoman said. She was 88. “My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women,” said Rev. Joseph Lowery, who is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
(AP Photo/John Amis)
Unafraid and unbowed, they fought together for justice and equality during some of the most tumultuous times in Alabama, marched for voting rights as Selma to Montgomery March participant, and were arrested for protesting against South African Apartheid and the dumping of toxic waste in North Carolina.”
Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP board of directors, said, “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.”
NAACP President/CEO Ben Jealous said, “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.”
Melanie L. Campbell, convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, described her as a “visionary founder and leader of the SCLC W.O.M.E.N., devoted wife and partner of Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, mother and a mentor to countless women and girls across the country.”
Campbell, also president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, stressed that Mrs. Lowery’s work focused largely on women, but was on behalf of people across the nation.
“The nation has lost a great leader and advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, human rights and social justice for all people…We will ‘never forget to remember’ Mrs. Evelyn Gibson Lowery’s legacy by continuing to do the work every day fighting for the empowerment of women and girls to achieve equal rights economically, educationally and politically now and for future generations.”
For more than one-half century, Mrs. Lowery assisted in advancing the cause of women and the African-American family unit, in particular, as well as mankind, in general, alongside her husband within the civil rights movement’s era that began in 1955 Alabama. Throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Mrs. Lowery championed the cause and promoted women’s rights within the movement, as well as worked alongside her husband with the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), co-founded by Rev. Lowery, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
Although SCLC/WOMEN, Inc. was formed in 1979, Mrs. Lowery, 16 years later in 1995, led in the rehabilitation of the present SCLC/WOMEN’s headquarters where she coordinated various programs and initiatives to benefit women and the family unit, as well as remember stalwart activists who rendered the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of justice and equality within the movement. Mrs. Lowery will be remembered as the champion and creator of several signature initiatives, including SCLC/WOMEN’s annual “Drum Major for Justice” awards dinner, held every April 4, in commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to recognize individuals of various professions carrying out the objectives of Dr. King of justice, equality and peace.
In lieu of flowers, contributions Can be sent to SCLC/WOMEN, Inc., Evelyn G. Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Educational Tour, 328 Auburn Avenue, NE Atlanta, Ga., 30303 or Joseph E. Lowery Institute P.O. Box 92801 Atlanta, Ga. 30314
David Stokes is associate editor of the Atlanta Inquirer.