Lowery’s honor much deserved

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, July 30, 2009

For nearly two decades the Rev. Joseph Lowery was the co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which had its genesis in Montgomery during the bus strikes in the mid-1950s.

He walked beside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to bring worldwide attention to the plight of African Americans who were denied the right to vote on the basis of their skin color. That Selma-to-Montgomery march forced the hand of President Lyndon Johnson to urge passage of the national Voting Rights Act in Congress.

But his activism did not stop there. He is co-founder and former president of the Black Leadership Forum, a consortium of African-American advocacy groups, which protested apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s until Nelson Mandela was elected president.

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A Methodist minister, he was pastor of Cascade United Methodist Church from 1986-92, when he retired.

Lowery has received other honors. The City of Atlanta renamed Ashby Street for him — Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, which runs from near Georgia Tech to White Street in West End. The NAACP gave him an award at its 1997 convention for being the dean of the civil rights movement. He has also received the Martin Luther King Jr. Center Peace Award and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Urban League.

Now this, the nation’s highest honor.

On Aug. 12, Lowery and 15 others will receive the nation’s highest honor set aside for civilians, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Barack Obama will hang the medal around Lowery’s neck and as the chief executive of this country does so, many from Alabama will watch and remember and celebrate.