One of the last icons of America’s civil rights battles turns 90 Thursday, and hundreds of his relatives, friends and fans will celebrate with him at Atlanta Symphony Hall on Sunday.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, “the dean of the civil rights movement,” who worked with Martin Luther King, will have Happy Birthday sung to him by Stevie Wonder. Lowery will receive in-person birthday wishes from fellow legends Andrew Young, former United Nations ambassador and ex-mayor of Atlanta; Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a former Freedom Rider and an organizer of the March on Washington in 1963; and the Rev. C.T. Vivian, a King lieutenant and former student organizer.
Lowery will be honored in a musical presentation, His Words — Our Gift, featuring singer Jennifer Holliday and actress Cicely Tyson.
“I feel blessed that the Lord has let me live this long and enjoy all the blessings that I’ve enjoyed,” Lowery said from his home in Atlanta.
He is part of the roster of African Americans who helped push the country past the days of separate water fountains for blacks and whites, poll taxes and widespread violence against African Americans. The death Wednesday of the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, 89, who helped organize the Freedom Rides that challenged segregation in the South, makes Lowery the oldest surviving leader of the non-violent demonstrations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Lowery, a native of Huntsville, Ala., was a chief organizer of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches in 1965 that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.
He created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy, who died in 1990.
“Working to help people is a joy, even though sometimes it was dangerous and heavy and treacherous,” Lowery said. “I thank God for the privilege.”
Source: Tucson Citizen | Melanie Eversley