US civil rights leader Joseph Lowery dies at 98

WASHINGTON • US civil rights leader Reverend Joseph Lowery, who used to campaign with Dr Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, died on Friday at the age of 98.

Born in 1921, Rev Lowery worked closely alongside leading figures in the civil rights movement such as Dr King and Rev Jesse Jackson, and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr King and other black ministers in 1957 to fight segregation across America’s south.

He served for 20 years as its president before stepping down in 1998. He continued working for racial equality into his 90s.

Rev Lowery was chosen to speak at the inauguration of the country’s first black president Barack Obama in 2009, and was later awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

He spoke against South African apartheid, sought better conditions in US jails, pushed for more economic opportunities for minorities, promoted Aids education and railed against what he saw as government indifference toward the lower classes.

“Rev Joseph Lowery was a fighter for civil rights,” fellow civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“He marched and he protested all across America. We mourn his passing.”

Rev Lowery was married to Evelyn Gibson Lowery, who shared his activism, for 63 years before her death in 2013.

The Lowery Institute, now known as the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights, was founded in his honour in 2001 and he was a member of its board.

Rev Lowery died at home surrounded by his daughters.


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