During a recent lunch hour, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery sat with a roomful of activists and absorbed the news that Troy Davis’ death sentence would not be commuted despite questions about his case.
“That’s typical Georgia, the state is 100 years behind the rest of the country,” he growled.
The aging civil rights icon seemed grumpy, so someone asked about an award he was getting that weekend from the Congressional Black Caucus, an event where he would be lauded by President Barack Obama.
“I didn’t know John was getting an award, too,” Lowery said of John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights hero. His voice rose with mock anger. “I thought I was the only one. I’m going to protest!”
It was vintage Joe Lowery, deadly serious one moment, laughing the next.
Lowery, who turned 90 last week and is being honored tonight at a gala event at Symphony Hall, has witnessed — and helped effect — seismic change throughout his life.
He was a compatriot of Martin Luther King who marched in Selma, boycotted buses in Mobile and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Council. He was a co-defendant in New York Times v. Sullivan, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that fortified freedom of the press.
The rhyming, loquacious Methodist preacher has lived long enough to become the dean of the civil rights movement and give the benediction at the inauguration of the nation’s first black president. In fact, another hero of the movement, the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, died Wednesday at age 89.
He has witnessed great change in his nine decades but says he still cannot rest.
“Georgia is on my mind a lot,” he said. “I worry my state is on the bottom so much and on the wrong side of so many issues.”
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SOURCE: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution