Friends, family pay tribute to civil rights pioneer Evelyn Lowery

theGRIO REPORT - Friends, family and the civil rights community have been paying tribute to Evelyn Gibson Lowery who died Thursday at the age of 88...

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GEORGIA – Friends, family and the civil rights community have been paying tribute to Evelyn Gibson Lowery who died Thursday at the age of 88.

Mrs. Lowery, the wife of civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery, passed away in early hours of the morning surrounded by her close-knit family.

Last week she suffered from a massive stroke. Following time in the hospital, her loved ones took her back to her Georgia home Wednesday after doctors said there was nothing more they could do.

Bernice King, the CEO of the King Center, said not only did Mrs. Lowery support her husband’s work but she was a dedicated pioneer in her own right.

“As founder and chair of SCLC/Women, Mrs. Lowery provided tireless leadership to empower women, protect and educate children and nurture families,” said King.

“She further led the way to making a difference in the world by establishing the Drum Major for Justice Awards Dinner, the Evelyn G. Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour, and the Bridging the Gap –Girls to Women Mentoring Program.”

Veteran journalist Sidmel Estes echoes the same sentiment. She told theGrio that women behind great icons like Dr. King, Rev. Abernathy and Rev. Lowery were the “real” strengths behind the civil rights movement.

 “They kept their families together and supported their husbands,” said Estes, who is a personal friend of the Lowrey family.

“That was the norm in their day and time and perhaps we need to think about how these strong women made a real difference. Mrs. Lowery founded and led to this day, SCLC/WOMEN and no one could do it better. “

Mrs. Lowery, who took part in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March, founded SCLC/WOMEN Inc. in 1979, the sister organization of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  It was established to empower and champion the rights of women, girls and their families.

She also created the Drum Major for Justice Awards, which honors those who made contributions in social justice. The awards are held annually in April in Atlanta.

Rev. Walter Kimbrough, a longtime family friend and former colleague of Rev. Lowery, said in an interview with theGrio that Mrs. Lowery was not just committed to activism but devoted to her husband and children.

“[Mr. and Mrs. Lowery] had a really strong bond and she was committed [to] her family. That needs to be emulated by younger couples.”

 Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed also commended Mrs. Lowery for her tireless work and commitment.

“Today we remember Mrs. Evelyn Lowery, a remarkable woman in her own right, who dedicated her life to promoting equality, liberty and justice for all people. We are all a direct beneficiary of her sacrifice, service and work as a champion for human rights.”

In a family statement released Thursday, Rev. Lowery said, “My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women.”

“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.”

Lowery was the daughter of Rev. Sr. Harry and Evelyn Gibson, activists in Memphis. Her father also was president of the local NAACP chapter.

 She is survived by her husband Joseph Lowery, three daughters (Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery and Cheryl Lowery-Osborne), a sister, and grandchildren.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti