- Position:Legacy Leaders and Founder/Convener SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. Inc.
Evelyn Gibson Lowery was born in Wichita, Kansas to Rev. (Dr.) Harry B. Gibson and Mrs. Evelyn Gibson. The Gibson family was a very musical family and Evelyn had a lovely voice. Her home life shaped the pivotal role that she would play in history. Evelyn found inspiration and commitment to social activism growing up in a home where not only were her parents involved in the life of the Methodist church but in civic and community organizations as well. Her father served at a number of Methodist churches in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Chicago, Illinois, Youngstown, Ohio, Wichita, Kansas, Birmingham, AL and Memphis, TN. Her father served as the President of the local Memphis NAACP. Before the age of 18, Evelyn knew that she was destined to champion the rights of others.
Mrs. Lowery attended Youngstown University and Clark College where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Upon graduation, it was her intent to become a social worker. However, while living in Birmingham, AL, her younger sister, Gerri, introduced her to a young man who would later enter the ministry under the mentoring of Dr. Gibson. That young man was Dr. Joseph Echols Lowery. They were joined in marriage on May 5, 1946. To some extent, Mrs. Lowery’s “social work” became her ministry as a Pastor’s wife as Dr. Lowery pastored Warren Methodist, in Mobile, AL and Central United Methodist for 18 years and Cascade United Methodist for six years in Atlanta, GA.
Mrs. Lowery was the epitome of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31. She was a woman of noble character who worked tirelessly in support of her family. An excellent cook, she created a home of order and beauty. A strict disciplinarian, she raised her children with love, dignity, respect, and a firm hand. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Dr. Lowery often referred to her in the words from Lionel Richie’s song, “She’s once, twice, three times a lady”. She was the “sunshine of his life” and he “the apple of her eyes”. She was “yang” to his “yin”. As in Proverbs 31, her husband had full confidence in her and he lacked nothing of value. She brought him good and not evil all the days of his life.
Clothed with strength and dignity, she spoke with wisdom and faithful instruction and as First Lady, she was sought after for wise counsel. She helped coordinate Women’s Day activities as well as establishing the “Chrismon” tree (handmade ornaments representing events in the life of Christ) at churches where they served.
Mrs. Lowery worked in the movement for justice and civil rights along side her husband. They have often been referred to as the “Siamese twins” of the movement. She understood that the contribution of women in the movement often went unnoticed. Upon Dr. Lowery’s election as President of the Southern Leadership Conference, Mrs. Lowery began concentrating on the often unnoticed contributions of women in the movement. In 1979, Mrs. Lowery, passionate about issues impacting women and children, summoned a group of women to her home.
From this gathering, the SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now) was born. SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. is now a 501©3 non-profit organization, a worldwide organization that includes members from different denominations and accepting girls and women of any race, nationality, or culture. Mrs. Lowery served as the National Convener from its inception until her death.
Her lamp did not go out by night. She was constantly forging new territory for the organization. In 1980, she started the first national conference on The Survival of the Black Family. A national conference for youth was added the following year. Mrs. Lowery believed in recognition of others. SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. held its first Drum Major for Justice Awards Banquet on April 4, 1980. A golf tournament was added in 1981. Both of these events served as fund-raisers for the programs of SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc.
Keenly aware of disparaging health issues affecting African-Americans, Mrs. Lowery began to address the issues of AIDS/HIV education. In addition to conferences to educating the African-American community on AIDS, Mrs. Lowery spearheaded the development of sermons, litanies, and other aids for the religious community.
Although she has been honored countless times, she was not one to grandstand or beat her own drum. Mrs. Lowery not only believed in recognizing the achievements of others, but she was especially interested in the preservation of history. This preservation began with the cataloguing of pictures of movement. What began as a traveling pictorial exhibit of the movement, turned to a permanent display at the SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc. headquarters in the historic Tabor Building on Auburn Avenue. Mrs. Lowery led efforts to purchase and renovate this building.
In 1987, Mrs. Lowery founded the Evelyn G. Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour, a two-day motor coach tour through out Alabama. Recognizing others and ensuring that others never forget
their contributions, Mrs. Lowery has erected 13 monuments along the civil rights trail. She was in process of developing the 14th monument in Montgomery to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Always sensitive to the concerns of women, children, families and the needs of the problems of the disenfranchised regardless of ethnicity or religion, Mrs. Lowery was constantly adding to the scope of SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc. The Women’s Empowerment Training Center for GED/Computer training was added in 1988; the Bridging-The-Gap-Girls to Women mentoring program was added in 1995. Her programs spanned all ages from school aged children to the elderly. She sponsored a Back-to-School Drive for students, an annual Christmas party for children and one for seniors. Over 2,000 attend the seniors’ party.
Proverbs 31 tells us “she extends her hands to the poor, yet she reaches out her hands to the needy. Warm, gracious, and caring, Mrs. Lowery instituted Pampering for Peace, a program to provide beauty services for homeless and abused women.
She radiated grace, a quiet strength, and a sense of humor as she directed a staff of volunteers at SCLC/ WOMEN. She remained involved in every detail of the actions of the organization.