Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, Civil Rights Leader and King Aide, Dies at 98

The incident “planted a seed in me,” Mr. Lowery told Emerge magazine in 1998. “It’s a wonder it didn’t make me hate.”

His family sent him to Chicago to live with relatives, but he returned to Huntsville to finish high school. He attended several colleges, including Paine College in Augusta, Ga., where he studied sociology.

He then worked for a black newspaper in Birmingham, Ala., where he reported on racist violence. In Birmingham he met Evelyn Gibson, a minister’s daughter, whom he married in 1947. In 1979, she founded the nonprofit group S.C.L.C./WOMEN (for Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), which advocates for disadvantaged women, children and families. She died in 2013.

Mr. Lowery’s survivors include three daughters.

Feeling a call to preach, Mr. Lowery enrolled in the Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. He was ordained in the United Methodist Church and assigned to the Warren Street United Methodist Church in Mobile.

He also joined the Mobile chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After Alabama outlawed the organization in 1955, he helped form an independent group, the Alabama Civil Affairs Association, and became its president. After a one-day boycott of Mobile buses, the group was able to get rid of the rule that black Americans must give up seats to white passengers, although they still had to board at the back of the bus.

Mr. Lowery then joined Dr. King and two other Alabama ministers, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth, in leading the bus boycott in Montgomery.

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