Evelyn Lowery, the wife of civil rights leader Joseph E. Lowery, and the founder of SCLC/W.O.M.E.N, died early this morning in her Atlanta home. She was 88 years old.

A statement from the Lowery family said that Evelyn was surrounded by her husband and her family at the time of her death. The civil rights pioneer suffered a stroke on Sept. 18 and was rushed to the hospital. She remained there in critical condition until doctors released her to be with family Tuesday night, saying Evelyn had suffered “irreversible damage” and that they had done all they could do.

She had been in critical condition throughout her time in the hospital and was not improving.

“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially around the issues of empowering women,” said Joseph Lowery. ” 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. 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.”

Evelyn and Joseph’s daughter, Cheryl Lowery, Executive Director of the Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights at Clark Atlanta University, released a statement following her mother’s discharge from the hospital saying the family was thankful for the efforts of the doctors and would be surrounding the family’s matriarch in prayer during what she called Evelyn Lowery’s remaining days.

“We continue to feel blessed that she is still with us and doctors have informed us that her condition remains critical,” she said. “We have been assured that all has been medically done, and in consultation with the medical experts know that what’s best for our mother is to live the remaining days of her life at home surrounded by her family and husband of 67 years. We have been deeply touched by the continuous outpourings of love, support and prayers that have come from across the country, and ask that you continue to keep us in prayer as we move through the days ahead.”

Joseph and Evelyn were married in 1946 and Evelyn founded SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. in 1972, serving as its president. The organization was created to advocate on behalf of the rights of women, children and families and served as a sister group to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King and headed by her husband. Through that organization, Evelyn spearheaded education and mentoring programs, HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives and raised more than $350,000 for scholarships for high school seniors.

She is a member of the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame and a winner of the Rosa Parks Award. She also created the Drum Major For Justice Award, given annually near the April 4 anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lowery was born on February 16, 1925.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, a family spokeswoman said in a statement.

(Photo: Evelyn and Joseph Lowery at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 2013. Taken by Atlata Daily World Publisher M. Alexis Scott.)

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