Civil rights activist Evelyn Lowery dies after stroke

Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery and his wife Evelyn in 2011.

Story highlights

  • Evelyn Lowery died at her Atlanta home Thursday
  • She formed a sister group to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
  • She and her husband participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery march

Civil rights activist Evelyn Gibson Lowery, who with her husband, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, participated in the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march in Alabama, died Thursday morning at her Atlanta home, a family spokeswoman said. She was 88.

She suffered a stroke last week, and on Wednesday returned home from a hospital after medical personnel decided "there was nothing more medically that they could do," the Lowery family said in a statement released Thursday.

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

Pioneers of the civil rights movement

The Lowerys' participation in the Selma-to-Montgomery march supporting African-Americans' right to vote was just one aspect of the couple's historic lives.

They were among the pioneers of the American civil rights movement from its beginnings in the 1950s.

Joseph Lowery -- sometimes referred to as the "dean of the civil rights movement" -- was a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights group formed in 1957. Martin Luther King Jr. was the first president of the group.

Evelyn Lowery was the founder of SCLC's sister organization -- SCLC/Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now Inc., found in 1979.

The purpose of the group, according to a bio on her group's website, is to "champion the rights of women, children, families, and responding to the problems of the disenfranchised regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, or religion."

In the 1980s, she founded several prominent programs, according to the profile.

One is the Drum Major for Justice Awards Dinner, which honors people who made contributions in the arena of social justice. Another is The Evelyn G. Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour that honors icons of the civil rights movement. She is responsible for the establishment of monuments honoring those icons.

She founded the Women's Empowerment Training Center for GED/computer training in 1988 and a mentoring program for girls in1995.

Lowery was the daughter of a clergyman in Memphis, Tennessee, who served in the local NAACP.

"Young Evelyn's eyes were exposed to the injustices (in) society, and before the age of eighteen, she committed herself to working towards making those conditions better," the website bio said.

People we've lost in 2013

      People we lost in 2013

    • James Avery during 2005 BET Awards - Red Carpet at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage)

      Actor James Avery

      Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
    • John Cordice

      Dr. John Cordice

      Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
    • Joseph Ruskin, who acted in 25 films and 124 television shows, died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital Saturday, December 28, according to  SAG-AFTRA. Ruskin was 89.

      Actor Joseph Ruskin

      Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
    • Jeff Pollack

      Producer Jeffrey Ian Pollack

      Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
    • FILE - In this July 26, 2002 file photo, Russian weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov presents his legendary assault rifle to the media while opening the exhibition "Kalashnikov - legend and curse of a weapon" at a weapons museum in Suhl, Germany. Mikhail Kalashnikov, whose work as a weapons designer for the Soviet Union is immortalized in the name of the world's most popular firearm, has died at the age of 94, Monday Dec. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

      Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of AK-47

      Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
    • Author Ned Vizzini

      Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
    • single use image -- do not reuse

      Actor Daniel Escobar

      Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
    • Ronnie Biggs poses for a photo

      'Great Train Robber' Ronnie Biggs

      "Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
    •  UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Ray Price Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

      Country music pioneer Ray Price

      Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
    • HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: Peter O'Toole poses as his hand and footprints are enshrined in concrete at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on April 30, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/PictureGroup)

      Peter O'Toole

      Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
    • Jim Hall performs during the Newport Jazz Festival 2013 at Fort Adams State Park on August 4, 2013.

      Guitarist Jim Hall

      Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
    • (FILE PHOTO) Former South African President Nelson Mandela Has Died LONDON - JUNE 26: Nelson Mandela leaves the InterContinental Hotel after a photoshoot with celebrity photographer Terry O'Neil on June 26, 2008 in London, England. Mandela is in London in advance of the 46664 concert being held at Hyde Park on Friday the 27th June to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

      Nelson Mandela

      Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
    • 'Fast & Furious' star Paul Walker

      Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
    • sot jane kean honymooners larry king live archive 2003_00002127.jpg

      'The Honeymooners' actress Jane Kean

      Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.