Statement on the passing of Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

We mourn the passing of civil rights legend, Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, and send our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues.

We also celebrate his extraordinary life, the movements for justice he built, the leaders he inspired and his love for Atlanta. A world renowned pastor, leader, and activist, Dr. Lowery, dedicated his life to advancing the cause of civil and human rights.

Part of his work for the cause included his leadership — along with his wife Evelyn Lowery — in the creation of our institution, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Dr. Lowery’s passing reminds us of our profound responsibility to ensure the march continues and to nurture the next generation of advocates for justice. We are forever grateful for his visionary leadership.

Considered “the Dean” of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Lowery helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition alongside fellow pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., working closely with lifelong friends Ambassador Andrew Young and Congressman John Lewis to end injustice and ensure equality.

A brilliant strategist and orator, Dr. Lowery understood the complexity of the entrenched obstacles to progress. Long after the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Lowery continued his leadership and advocacy — for prison reform, economic empowerment, marriage equality, and peace. An Atlanta icon, he wielded the soft power of the counselor, helping the city evolve from its historic past.

Unafraid to commit his life to justice, Dr. Lowery was shot at by the Klu Klux Klan. He was arrested many times and escaped a hotel bombing. He was an early supporter of President Barack Obama and gave the benediction at his inauguration. Having awarded Dr. Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Obama later noted, “he carried the baton longer than most.”

As we mourn Dr. Lowery’s passing, we celebrate his life, and hold his work as an example and a reminder of the power we each hold to create a more just and humane world.

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