Here’s a look at the life of civil rights leader Joseph Lowery.


Birth date: October 6, 1921

Death date: March 27, 2020

Birth place: Huntsville, Alabama

Birth name: Joseph Echols Lowery

Father: LeRoy Lowery, store owner

Mother: Dora (Fackler) Lowery, teacher

Marriage: Evelyn (Gibson) Lowery (April 5, 1948-September 26, 2013, her death)

Children: with Evelyn Lowery: Yvonne, Karen, Cheryl; with name unavailable publicly: Joseph Jr.; LeRoy II

Education: Attended Alabama A&M University and Knoxville College; Payne College & Theological Seminary, B.A., B.D.; Chicago Ecumenical Institute, D.D., 1950

Other Facts

A founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Was sometimes referred to as the “dean of the civil rights movement.”

Continued to lead marches and boycotts against racism in the South after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

Brought the SCLC into the political fray after Andrew Young was forced to resign as UN ambassador for meeting with PLO member Zehdi Labib Terzi in 1979.

Spent over two decades as a board member for MARTA, the public transportation system of Atlanta.


1950 - Is ordained a Methodist minister.

1952-1961 - Pastor of Mobile, Alabama’s Warren Street United Methodist Church.

1955 - Begins organizing for the civil rights movement in Mobile, Alabama.

1957 - The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded.

1957-1967 - Is named vice-president of SCLC. Dr. King is president.

1964-1968 - Pastor at St. Paul’s Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

1967-1977 - National Chairman and member of board of directors SCLC.

February 1977-January 15, 1998 - National President and CEO of SCLC.

August 20, 1979 - With a delegation of SCLC members, meets with Zehdi Labib Terzi, the PLO’s chief observer at the United Nations.

February 5-18, 1982 - Organizes the longest civil rights march. More than 3,500 supporters march from Carrollton, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, demanding the extension of the voting rights act.

1986-1992 - Pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

1997-2020 - President Emeritus SCLC.

1997 - Receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP.

2001 - Clark Atlanta University establishes the Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights.

October 6, 2001 - An Atlanta street is renamed Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard in his honor.

February 7, 2006 - Makes controversial remarks during Coretta Scott King’s funeral: “She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance, poverty abound. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor.”

January 20, 2009 - Gives the benediction at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration.

August 12, 2009 - Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony.

January 30, 2010 - Is taken to Emory University Hospital Midtown after having respiratory problems.

February 13, 2010 - Is discharged from the hospital after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.

February 13, 2011 - Delivers a sermon at Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta for the first time since suffering a stroke in 2010.

December 7, 2014 - Suffers a fractured hip after a fall at a California hotel.

March 27, 2020 - Lowery dies at the age of 98. Lowery’s death is confirmed by family representative Imara Canady, who says he died of natural causes.