Evelyn Lowery, 1925-2013, !Presente! (UPDATE 2)
(APN) Mrs. Evelyn Gibson Lowery, a civil rights and women’s empowerment hero, died early Thursday morning, September 26, 2013 in her home after complications from a stroke. She was 88.
Evelyn and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, were active in the Civil Rights Movement from its inception. The two participated in the march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.
Both Mrs. Lowery and her husband became pillars in the Civil Rights Movement, leading the Southern Christian Leadership Council/Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now (SCLC W.O.M.E.N. INC) and The Coalition for the People’s Agenda, respectively.
“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women,” Joseph Lowery said 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,” Rev. Lowery said.
“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,” he said.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, to the Rev. and Mrs. Harry Gibson, Evelyn became an activist at a young age. She founded SCLC/W.O.M.E.N INC in 1979 and under its banner led projects empowering at-risk and low income families. Projects included the Women’s Empowerment Training Center for GED and computer training and the Bridging-The-Gap Girls to Women mentoring program.
Evelyn’s colleagues and friends remember her as a woman of quiet strength who was committed to lifting up others.
“I was really struck with how a woman who had been so brave immediately put me at ease and seemed so serene,” Bobbie Paul, former Executive Director of Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, who worked with Evelyn on several projects, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“I thought the genius was she made you very much aware of yourself when you were with her. Her piercing eyes showed this determination and strength. She challenged you to be in touch with your own,” Paul said.
Lowery was perhaps best known for her programs that honor activists and advocates for justice and put their work in historical context, inspiring the next generation of organizers to get involved.
Lowery spearheaded the Drum Major for Justice Awards, an annual gala that pays tribute to present day “Drum Majors” or people who have greatly advanced social justice.
She also founded the Evelyn G. Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour, a two-day tour of Civil Rights sites in Alabama. She raised funds to build thirteen monuments for civil rights activists marking important landmarks along the route such as the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where four young girls died in a bombing.
Participants have called the tour life changing.
“One thing about being a pioneer like she was, is that we’re going to miss her because all of the historical knowledge and know-how. She will be missed but she will be remembered. She will be known for her steadfast determination to keep Martin Luther King’s dream alive,” State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas told APN. “I am deeply saddened by Mrs. Lowery’s passing. My prayers go out to her family.”
“It is with a heavy heart that I pause and reflect on the tremendous contributions of Mrs. Evelyn Lowery. Her passing leaves a huge void in the lives of so many of us who knew her personally. Growing up in Atlanta as a child of the civil rights era, Mrs. Lowery was more than a powerful solider [sic] in the movement, she was also like family,” Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) said.
“Her extraordinary contributions to SCLC/Women was just one of her many roles in the struggle for equality. My family and I spent countless hours working, planning and praying together with the Lowery’s. This early relationship helped shape my life and played a crucial role in my desire to pursue a life as a public servant. Words are inadequate to express the deep regret we all have in her passing. Her impact on the lives of so many throughout the nation can never be adequately measured,” Bond said.
“Mrs. Lowery was a lady of quality, class and distinction. Her work in the promotion of racial and economic justice, women’s rights, and religious freedom has left an indelible mark upon the social, political, educational and moral conscious of our community, our state and our nation. Her level of intelligence, grace and compassion will be difficult to surpass. Atlanta, the nation and the world are a better place by her being in our midst,” Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) said.
Lowery leaves behind her husband; three daughters – Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery, and Cheryl Lowery-Osborne; and several grandchildren.
Lowery’s funeral will take place Wednesday, October 02, at 11 am at the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel. A public viewing will take place Monday, September 30, at Cascade United Methodist Church from 11am to 9pm.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mrs. Lowery was born in 1927 and was 87. We received a correction request from a reader and verified with a spokeswoman for the family, Diane Larche’, that Lowery was in fact both in 1925 and was 88. APN regrets the error, which, apparently, has been made by a number of news organizations.
CORRECTION #2: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that there would be a public viewing at Atlanta City Hall on Monday, September 30. However, the viewing will be held at Cascade United Methodist Church. APN received two requests to correct this fact, which was confirmed with Ms. Larche. Larche said that a person who had incorrect information and was unauthorized to do so had sent out incorrect information to several news organizations.