SCLC veteran Evelyn Lowery joins the ancestors
By David Stokes
Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Inquirer
ATLANTA — Evelyn Gibson Lowery, a civil rights activist and wife of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) co-founder Joseph E. Lowery, died in her southwest Atlanta home the morning of Sept. 26 from complications from a stroke. She was 88 years old.
The founder and board chair of SCLC/WOMEN (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), Inc. was admitted to a local hospital Sept. 18. She was discharged the next day after physicians concluded there was nothing else they could do to preserve her life.
Joseph Lowery, who turns 92 on Oct. 6, said in a statement, “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.”
He continued, “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.”
For more than 50 years, Mrs. Lowery assisted in advancing the cause of women, the African American family unit, as well as people in general. She was a regular fixture at the side of her husband during the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott.
Mrs. Lowery carved out her niche in the 1950s, 60s and 70s as she championed women’s rights within the movement, while also working with her husband with the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
SCLC/WOMEN, Inc. was formed in 1979. Sixteen years later, she led the drive to rehabilitate SCLC/WOMEN’s headquarters and coordinated various programs and initiatives to benefit women and the family unit.
Among her signature achievements were creation of SCLC/WOMEN’s annual “Drum Major for Justice” awards dinner, held every April 4, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The awards, established in 1980, recognize individuals advancing justice, equality and peace.
Another landmark achievement was the Evelyn Gibson Lowery African American Civil Rights Heritage Tour, held the first weekend in every March. Mrs. Lowery served as a guide to students touring major civil rights sites in Alabama.
Funeral arrangements were pending at press time. The family asks that contributions in Mrs. Lowery’s name be sent to SCLC/WOMEN, Inc., 328 Auburn Avenue, N.E. Atlanta, Ga., 30312.
Some of the donations will go toward the group’s upcoming event, Pampering For Peace, an activity to support women in local domestic violence shelters.
Although her husband, Joseph, retired in January 1998 as the longest serving president of SCLC, Mrs. Lowery wasn’t ready to retreat from public life.
“There is much more to be accomplished; so many successes have taken place over the years, yet, so many more are still coming,” she said 15 years ago. “We must remain on course, stand and work vigilantly, and witness the rewards of our labor for the cause of freedom, justice and peace.”
Mrs. Lowery was the mother of three daughters: Yvonne, Karen and Cheryl, as well as a loving grandmother and great-grandmother — and friend to all who supported and worked for the cause of peace, justice and equality.