In Memoriam: Joseph Echols Lowery, 1921-2020

Joseph Lowery, a minister and a pillar of the civil rights movement, died at his home on March 27. He was 98 years old.

A native of Huntsville, Alabama, Lowery studied at Knoxville College in Tennessee and at what is now Alabama A&M University before earning a bachelor’s degree at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. He studied at the Paine Theological Seminary to become a Methodist minister and became pastor of the Warren Street United Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama. He later earned a doctorate at the Chicago Ecumenical Institute.

In 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in seats reserved for Whites in the front of a bus, Dr. Lowery helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1957 he was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He served a chair of the board of that organization from 1967 to 1977 and as president from 1977 to 1998.

Dr. Lowery was an organizer of the Selma, Alabama, voting rights march. Later he was a crusader against South African apartheid and against racial inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

In 2002, the Joseph E. Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights was founded at Clark Atlanta University. The Institute was later renamed to include and honor Dr. Evelyn Lowery, his beloved partner in marriage and the movement for 67 years.

At President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Dr. Lowery was asked to deliver the benediction. He prayed: “In the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy, say Amen.”

In August 2009, President Obama awarded Dr. Lowery the Medal of Freedom.

Related Articles


  1. His soul is at rest…did his best with the gifts that God had bestowed upon him and most definitely made our country/world a better place

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Johns Hopkins University Launches New Major and Center for Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism

The new Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism will provide research opportunities and educational events for the Johns Hopkins University community. As part of the new program, the university has announced a new undergraduate major in critical diaspora studies.

Chicago Library Receives $2 Million to Digitize Collection of African American History and Literature

The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection housed within the Chicago Public Library will soon be available online to the public thanks to a $2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Online Articles That May Be of Interest to JBHE Readers

Each week, JBHE will provide links to online articles that may be of interest to our readers. Here are this week’s selections.

Recent Books of Interest to African American Scholars

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education regularly publishes a list of new books that may be of interest to our readers. The books included are on a wide variety of subjects and present many different points of view.

Featured Jobs