Illustration for article titled Civil Rights Icon, Prominent Preacher Joseph Lowery Passes Away at 98
Photo: Associated Press

His is the epitome of a life well-lived.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, a veteran civil rights leader and a co-founder of the influential Southern Christian Leadership Conference, died on Friday at 98.

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His family issued a statement confirming the passing, saying he died peacefully at his Atlanta home Friday night, surrounded by his daughters.

Lowery, born in Huntsville, Ala., worked closely with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and led the SCLC for two decades before retiring in 1997.

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He is credited with restoring the organization’s financial stability and pressuring businesses not to do business with South Africa during its apartheid-era regime.

Some of the fiery and outspoken leader’s causes included Palestinian liberation, police brutality, states’ rights and the importance of voting.

According to the Associated Press, Lowery edited a newspaper and taught school in Birmingham after attending college.

After marrying Evelyn Gibson, who was a Methodist preacher’s daughter, he began his first pastorate in Birmingham in 1948.

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His dreams were somewhat crystallized when he lived to celebrate the November 2008 milestone that very few from his era witnessed—the historical election of an African American president, Barack Hussein Obama.

The esteemed member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity would go on to deliver the benediction at Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009:

“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.”

Lowery would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the summer of 2009.

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“Change is in the wind,” he said during the ceremony. “We’ve come a long way — a long way. But unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.”

In 2001, he and his late wife Evelyn established the Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights at Clark Atlanta University.

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On Saturday morning, Rev. Jesse Jackson eulogized his fellow freedom fighter on social media.

“Dr. Lowery, along with Dr. King, was one of the founding members of SCLC,” Jackson wrote.”He became president for 27 years. In our tradition, he walked the dusty of roads of South, crying out for justice in the land of the world. He never stopped fighting for those whose backs were against the wall.”

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Lowery is survived by his three daughters, Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery and Cheryl Lowery.

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