Civil rights leader Evelyn Lowery dies
Ken Watts | 9/26/2013, 12:06 p.m.
ATLANTA Evelyn Lowery, the founder and president of SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., died this morning at her home in Atlanta after suffering a stroke on Sept. 18. Mrs. Lowery had been hospitalized and treated for a week but doctors said the stroke caused “irreversible damage” and that her condition would remain critical. Lowery’s family brought her back to her home in Atlanta on Wednesday where she passed away peacefully around 4 a.m. Thursday, "surrounded by those she loved," according to family spokeswoman Diane Larche. She was 88.
Lowery was the wife of longtime Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Dr. Joseph E. Lowery. The Lowerys wed on April 5, 1948, and were married for 65 years.
“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women," said Joseph Lowery in a statement. " 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. I will miss her each and every day, but as a man of faith, I know that she is with her God.”
An activist in her own right, Evelyn Lowery founded SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now) in 1979. The group focuses on voter registration, AIDS prevention, historic documentation and preservation, health and welfare, and programs aimed at strengthening black families. Through that organization she also spearheaded education and mentoring programs and raised over $350,000 for scholarships for high school seniors. Over the years, Lowery has also taken the lead in recognizing the contributions of fellow activists. She developed coalitions and alliances with a variety of women’s groups throughout the nation and other parts of the world.
Each March she led a civil rights tour to Alabama to visit sites of historical importance to the civil rights movement. Under her leadership, SCLC/W.O.M.E.N erected monuments in Birmingham and Selma in honor of many of the movement’s foot soldiers who were not as famous as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but whose involvement was pivotal to the movement’s success.
Lowery moved to develop coalitions and alliances with a variety of women’s groups throughout the nation and other parts of the world.
In 1980, Lowery created the Drum Major for Justice Award, held annually near the April 4th anniversary of King’s assassination. The founding president of SCLC, King said he wanted to be remembered as “a drum major for justice.” The awardees are recognized by their contributions to the cause of freedom, equality, and achievement in their professional fields.
In 2004, Lowery herself was honored at the International Walk of Fame at the Martin luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.
“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,” said Joseph Lowery.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced. Please check back for updates.