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Civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery dies at 98

Activist worked with civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

DETROIT – Civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery died Friday in Atlanta of natural causes, family members say. He was 98.

Lowery was known as a leader in the country’s civil rights movement. He was often referred to as the unofficial dean of the civil rights movement. Lowery worked hand in hand in the movement’s formative years with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson.

He once noted that he missed King and other civil rights icons who died before him. However, he felt God was keeping him alive for a single cause. That cause was addressing the injustices of the criminal justice system, particularly toward poor black men.

He spoke at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 2013.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference released the following statement regarding Lowery, the organization’s third president:

“Our prayers are extended to the family of Rev. Lowery, my dear friend, mentor and fellow comrade in the civil rights movement. Rev. Lowery led our organization through some trying times. He was an exceptional visionary with tremendous follow through and he was very successful in taking the SCLC to the next level in terms of entrepreneurship, building the worldwide recognition of the organization and educating society about Dr. King’s philosophy and contributions. He was a highly effective leader.

He was very articulate. He had the gift of understanding people and working with individuals from all sectors of society. He was recognized as a great orator for delivering some powerful speeches, but he was just as gifted at motivating people from different cultures, religions and agendas to convene at the table to work together for the common good. With the problems we are addressing today around the world, he would continue to be that catalyst to bring folks together. He was that glue that kept us at the table until we found the solutions. That is what is missing today with current leadership. I had a very serious conversation with Dr. Lowery concerning the SCLC and the movement about nine months ago. It was just he and I. He said he was confident in my leadership. He was most appreciative of the new debt free headquarters for the organization. That endorsement elevated my credibility, because, in this day and time, leaders can’t depend on membership alone to take care of the needs of an organization. We must go around the world to build the thirst for people to support and be active in the SCLC. The people must believe in what we are doing and how we are working diligently to keep the legacy of Dr. King and the SCLC alive. While Dr. Lowery was mostly confined to his home over the past several years, he was still mentally sharp and full of wisdom. He motivated and stimulated us all until the very end. He will be missed.”


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