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Civil rights hero Lowery honoured at private Atlanta funeral

Last Updated Apr 4, 2020 at 11:44 am MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2009, file photo, President Barack Obama presents a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery n the East Room of the the White House in Washington. Lowery, a veteran civil rights leader who helped the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and fought against racial discrimination, died Friday, March 27, 2020, a family statement said. He was 98. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

ATLANTA — Family of the Rev. Joseph Lowery gathered Saturday for a small, private funeral for the civil rights veteran who worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and decades later delivered a prayer before 1.8 million at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

A horse-drawn caisson attended by men in black suits and top hats carried Lowery’s casket to Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, where about 10 family members attended a graveside service. The procession first made stops at two churches where Lowery had served as pastor, as well as the non-profit Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice and Human rights that he founded in 2001.

Lowery, 98, died March 27 in Atlanta from what his family said were natural causes unrelated to the new virus. He was best known for helping King start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization that Lowery went on to lead for two decades.

Likely by coincidence, Lowery’s funeral fell on the 52nd anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

Lowery gave the benediction at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Later that year, Obama awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

A public memorial service is planned for Oct. 6, which would have been Lowery’s 99th birthday.

Lowery’s daughter, Cheryl Lowery, had previously said 10 family members would attend the funeral Saturday. Specific details of the service were not made public.

The Associated Press