Lowery, Joseph E.

Lowery, Joseph E.

(1924–  ) Methodist clergyman, civil rights activist; born in Huntsville, Ala. His first congregation was at the Warren Street Church in Birmingham, Ala. (1952–61). He resigned to become administrative assistant to Bishop Golden (1961–64). He was pastor of St. Paul Church in Atlanta (1964–68) and was named minister of the Central United Methodist Church in Atlanta (1968–86). He succeeded the Rev. Ralph Abernathy as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (1977) and received national and international attention when he led a SCLC delegation on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East (1979) and met with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders; Israeli officials refused to meet with the SCLC delegation or its president. Under the leadership of this generally soft-spoken and unassuming man, the SCLC reinstituted Operation Breadbasket to encourage black businesspeople to reinvest in the black community, lobbied on behalf of Haitians interned by the American government after seeking asylum here, and sponsored a march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C., to push the Voting Rights Act of 1982. He often spoke on anti-apartheid issues and made a tentative bid for the Democratic presidential nomination (1984).