Civil Rights icon Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery has gone home

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I woke up to some very somber news this morning. The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, the “Lion of Atlanta,” the “Dean of the Civil Rights Movement,” and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) has walked on.  

Tributes from around the world and here at home are already pouring in for Lowery, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. They come from friends, fellow civil rights activists, world leaders, former Presidents, and politicians—as well as from people whose lives he touched, though they never knew him. He was well loved. 

We here at Daily Kos offer our condolences to the Lowery family. 

At 98, Rev. Lowery has earned his rest, though he will probably be shaking things up behind those pearly gates, because that just was who he was.

Tonight, the great Reverend Joseph E. Lowery transitioned from earth to eternity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He was a champion for civil rights, a challenger of injustice, a dear friend to the King family. Thank you, sir. [�: MLK, Lowery, Wyatt Tee Walker] pic.twitter.com/PGHpBJJjNm

� The King Center (@TheKingCenter) March 28, 2020

Rev. Joseph Lowery was a giant who let so many of us stand on his shoulders. With boundless generosity, patience, and moral courage, he encouraged a new generation of activists and leaders. Michelle and I remember him fondly today, and our love and prayers are with his family. pic.twitter.com/xxjY2habOm

� Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 28, 2020

Today we honor the life and legacy of Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights legend and the co-founder of the @NationalSCLC. #RestInPower pic.twitter.com/hTfJjvSuxX

� NAACP (@NAACP) March 28, 2020

We have lost a stalwart of the Civil Rights Movement, and I have lost a friend and mentor. His wit and candor inspired my generation to use civil disobedience to move the needle on �liberty and justice for all.� https://t.co/xLU3ndUSCo

� James E. Clyburn (@WhipClyburn) March 28, 2020

I will not weep, because his was a life well-lived and hard-fought. His story is being told and re-told today, and I am hoping that young people who did not know him, will learn something from how he lived, and follow in his footsteps. Vox neatly condensed the first 30 years of his life.

Lowery was born in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1921, and was the son of a shopkeeper and a teacher. He told the Atlanta Tribune magazine in 2004 that his journey toward becoming a civil rights activist likely began around the age of 12 or 13 when a white policeman hit him in the stomach with his nightstick and said, “Get back ni**er. Don’t you see a white man coming in the door?”

Lowery became an ordained Methodist minister after attending college and served as a pastor for close to 50 years. He organized protests in the early 1950s aimed at desegregating buses in Mobile, Alabama, and was involved in coordinating the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, a watershed moment in the civil rights movement that ended segregation of the city’s public transportation.

In 1957, he and a number of other black ministers co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group originally headed by King and later led by Lowery that coordinated protests across the South. Famously, Lowery personally delivered protesters’ demands to the state’s segregationist governor, George Wallace, after the 1965 march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, surrounded by the National Guard who protected him from Wallace supporters and state troopers barring his way.

I am thinking of the words he offered in benediction at President Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.

YouTube Video

We pray now, O Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant, Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and, indeed, the global fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hand, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills. For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance. And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family.

Who could imagine that President Obama would be followed by a man who represented that very greed, corruption, social and economic disruption? Rev. Lowery knew we would have to keep fighting, as he noted at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 2013.

“We come today, 50 years later, it’s even stranger that there are men and forces who still seek to restrict our vote and deny our full participation,” Lowery said. “Well, we come here to Washington to say: We ain’t going back. We ain’t going back. We’ve come too far, marched too long, prayed too hard, wept too bitterly, bled too profusely and died too young to let anybody turn back the clock on our journey to justice.”

Watch the full speech here, courtesy of PBS Newshour.

YouTube Video

The Visionary Project’s interview with Rev. Lowery can be found in their Civil Rights Oral History Archive; listen to how he defines leadership.

YouTube Video

The Library of Congress also has an oral history interview with Rev. Lowery, conducted by Joseph Mosnier back in June 2011.

I smiled when I saw this clip of a group of young black men from Morehouse College gathered around Lowery for his 94th birthday celebration.

YouTube Video

Morehouse paid Rev. Lowery tribute today.

We celebrate the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, civil rights icon, servant leader, and friend of Morehouse College. Thank you for your courage, sacrifice, and commitment to the fight for justice. Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/Pw36chOAcP

� Morehouse College (@Morehouse) March 28, 2020

There are too many wonderful tributes, and tweets for me to post in this story, so I’ll just post this final one.

âÂ�Â�IâÂ�Â�d like a hamburger and coke, please Sir we donâÂ�Â�t serve negroes here MaâÂ�Â�am I donâÂ�Â�t eat negroes…IâÂ�Â�d like a hamburger and a coke!âÂ�Â� -Rev Joseph Lowery rest in paradise sir… pic.twitter.com/DRV4fwHwWi

� KT (@KT359) March 28, 2020

The Lion sleeps tonight in a better place, leaving behind the place he made better for all of us.

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