Evelyn Lowery, the wife of civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, died overnight in her Atlanta home.
She was 88.
“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women,” Joseph E. Lowery said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Joseph Lowery was pastor of the Warren Street Methodist Church, in Mobile, Alabama from 1952 until 1961. His career in the civil rights movement began in the early 1950s in Mobile, Alabama. After Rosa Parks' arrest in 1955, Lowery helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott. He headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted to the desegregation of buses and public places. In 1957, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lowery founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and subsequently led the organization as its president from 1977 to 1997.
Evelyn Lowery, the founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference/WOMEN (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), suffered a stroke Sept. 18 and had been hospitalized for a week. She returned home from the hospital Wednesday, after doctors told the family that her condition would remain critical.
“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,” her husband said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Survivors include her husband, three daughters, a sister and grandchildren.
The daughter of a Methodist preacher, Evelyn Lowery had become accustomed to a life of activism long before she met Joseph E. Lowery, who would not only become her husband, but a preacher and civil rights activist, too.
“I grew up with that,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1985. “[My father] was very outspoken and actively involved in incidents in the community. I had moments when I didn’t understand some things. But you live with people, it becomes a part of you.”
In that same interview, she said that in 1947 her younger sister set her up on a blind date with a young Joe Lowery — whose demeanor was vaguely familiar.
“We were both young, but he was old for his age even then. He was already talking on the same level as my father, in terms of maturity and depth. I could appreciate that,” she said. “I guess I was always a little old-fashioned.”
They dated for a year and then married on April 5, 1948. Three daughters followed.
While her husband took his place in history, advocating for civil rights, Lowery took up the cause of making sure the women who supported the movement had a voice as well. In 1979, two years after her husband became president of the SCLC, she formed SCLC/WOMEN to give women more of a voice. The organization was originally set up as a department of the SCLC and was incorporated 10 years later.
Lowery, who remained chairwoman of the organization, continued to work tirelessly to make sure women and girls had advancement opportunities. In 1988, she established a training center for GED classes and computer training, and in 1995, she created a mentoring program for young women, according to the organization’s website.