UPDATE: Cheryl Lowery, daughter of Evelyn and Joseph Lowery and Executive Director of the Joseph E. Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights at Clark Atlanta University, released a statement to the public on her mother’s funeral plans.
“At this time, the family is finalizing plans for my mothers home-going celebration, as we are committed to making it an occasion that will commemorate the life and legacy of this giant of a woman. We continue to thank the community for its continued outpouring of love and support. Once arrangements have been finalized, all official communications will continue to be released by Larche’ Communications on behalf of our family.”
Since the announcement of Evelyn Lowery’s death on Thursday, regards and statements of support to the Lowery family and those close to her have poured in from around the country. Lowery, the wife of civil rights icon Joseph E. Lowery, and a seminal figure in the struggle for civil rights, herself, passed away at her home in the early hours of Thursday morning, a family spokesperson said.
She suffered a stroke on Sept. 18 and was rushed to a local hospital where she was held by doctors in critical condition. After informing the Lowery family that Evelyn had suffered “irreversible damage” and that they had done all they could, doctors released her to be at home. She was 88 years old.
In response to Evelyn Lowery’s passing, the NAACP released the following statements from Chairman Roslyn M. Brock and President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous:
“A pioneer and champion in the civil rights movement has passed on,” said Brock. “Evelyn Lowery’s leadership was essential to the longevity and power behind the movement for equality. Ms. Lowery was a drum major for justice in her own right. Her spirit lives on in the initiatives she founded and in the activists she mentored across the nation.”
“Today, we mourn the passing of a champion for civil and human rights,” said Jealous. “Ms. Lowery’s foresight and leadership pushed the envelope of what organizations like the SCLC and the NAACP could do for women and families. Her legacy lives on in the coalitions she built and the strong foundation she laid. She was a hero and will be truly missed.”
Evelyn Lowery, who marched with her husband from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., as part of the struggle for equal rights, also founded SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc.) to champion the rights of women, children, families, and their ability to respond to issues affecting the community. Through that organization she spearheaded education and mentoring programs, HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives, and built coalitions and alliances with various women’s groups across the globe. She also created the Drum Major for Justice Award, which recognizes awardees for their contributions to the civil rights movement and achievements in their professional fields.
Janice Mathis, Vice President for Legal Affairs at Rainbow PUSH Coalition, who oversees Atlanta’s branch of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s organization, also issued a statement on Lowery’s passing.
“In many ways she was ahead of her time,” said Mathis. “She recognized the scourge of HIV as a moral issue long before the Black church embraced it. She insisted on honoring the history of the civil rights rebellion when few understood its significance. But for me she was a woman out of time. Or beyond time. She achieved something many women find elusive – a successful marriage and the freedom to chart her own course and speak with her own voice. She is a role model for my generation and for the ages.”
In addition to members of the civil rights community, politicians from around the state of Georgia extended their condolences, including members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Ms. Lowery, a civic leader who dedicated her life to selfless service for women and children. My thoughts and prayers are with her family,” said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. “Mrs. Lowery annually hosted the Drum Major for Justice Awards, but it is she who led the way. Her legacy will continue to live on through SCLC/W.O.M.E.N by inspiring women all over the world to continue fighting for equality. I am honored to have known her. She transformed lives, including my own.”
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) released the following statement on news of her death:
“Mrs. Lowery was a devoted mother, wife and friend who exemplified the strength of purpose that has marked the life that she and Dr. Lowery built and shared throughout their more than 65 years of marriage. Her life’s work fighting AIDS, preserving history, protecting the health and welfare of our communities and her tireless efforts strengthening black families is her legacy. America has lost a great patriot for truth and justice. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to Dr. Lowery, their children, and the family.”
John Eaves, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, also released a statement on Mrs. Lowery’s passing, noting:
“Our hearts are heavy upon learning of the passing of Mrs. Evelyn Lowery today. When you think of Mrs. Lowery, the quote that says behind every successful man, there is a strong, wise and hardworking woman comes to mind. While her husband, Reverend Joseph Lowery is a civil rights icon in his own right, Ms. Lowery was right there by his side in the fight for racial equality as founder of SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. Our prayers and thoughts are with Dr. Lowery and the Lowery family and we express our deepest condolences.”
Atlanta City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond sent his condolences as well.
“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 in the movement, she was also like family. 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.”
Upon her death, her husband, Joseph E. Lowery, also issued a statement.
“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the 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 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,” he 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.”
No funeral arrangements have yet been made, but both a private funeral and public viewing are expected.