The Crazy Life of the Rev. Joseph Lowery

George E. Curry | 10/10/2011, 8:06 p.m.

Like her husband, Mrs. Lowery accepted the danger that accompanied ground-breaking civil rights work.

"It was a narrow escape, but I knew that we were all in together," she told Atlanta Woman magazine. "I was part of the Civil Rights Movement and I became very focused. I knew why God had put me here."

After being attacked by the KKK in Decatur, Joseph Lowery returned the next day with 10,000 additional marchers.

Of the many civil rights struggles he has been engaged in, Lowery doesn't hesitate when asked about the one that stands out most.

"If I had to pick one - and you would hold me to it - I would say the campaign for the right to vote," Lowery stated. Dr. King appointed Lowery as chairman of a committee to present the demands of Selma-to-Montgomery marchers to Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace. However, Wallace refused to meet with Lowery and his committee.

"They wanted to take the demands and give them to the governor, but I wouldn't give them to them," Lowery stated. "We had marched 50 miles. I wasn't going to give them to the secretary." Wallace met with Lowery several weeks later and received the demands to expand voting rights protection.

The highlight of the 1965 campaign was witnessing President Lyndon B. Johnson, a southerner, signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act that paved the way for increased voter participation, especially in the Deep South. Borrowing a phrase from a popular civil rights song, Johnson proclaimed, "We shall overcome."

King lived long enough to see the growth of Black elected officials, but not a Black president.

"I've lived long enough to see an African-American president," Lowery said, still beaming with pride. "When we got the Voting Rights Act passed, we all thought there would be a Black president one day. But none of us believed we would live long enough to see it, I certainly didn't. The Lord let me live to see it and he let me participate in his inauguration. Then, he gave me the highest award in the nation bestowed on a civilian. I wish so much that people like Martin, Ralph, T.Y. Rogers, Hosea and the others could have lived to see the day we have a Black president."

When asked how he would like to be remembered, Lowery paused for several seconds.

"I guess I want them to remember that I was a small-town preacher, from a small town in North Alabama, who tried to apply the moral imperatives of the faith to social and political problems," he said. "That's all I was trying to do."

That and being good crazy.

Sign Up for Our Email Edition

Social Media