Joseph Lowery has been creating a stir for years. For many his benediction was the oratorical highlight of President Barack Obama’s Inauguration.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama in 1924, Lowery encountered racism growing up.
In 1955, inspired by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white rider in Montgomery Alabama, Lowery led a successful drive against the segregated bus system in Mobile, where he was a minister. Building on these efforts, Lowery and other black ministers met in Atlanta at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Soon after, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formed. Martin Luther King, Jr was the group’s first president, Lowery the first vice president. The SCLC eventually became one of the most pivotal civil rights organizations and Lowery was president from 1977 to 1998.
More recently, Lowery was involved in Nelson Mandela’s 1990 visit to Atlanta. As chairman of MARTA’s board, he was influential in securing millions of dollars for funding the 1996 Olympics.
Lowery also played a crucial role in modifying the design of the Georgia flag in 2003. He led peace delegations to the Middle East and Central America and was influential in the provisions of the Voting Rights Act to 2007.