NAMC is sadden to announce the passing of civil rights leader, Rev. Joseph Lowery on Friday, March 27. According to CNN’s Amir Vera and Tricia Escobedo,

Lowery’s death was confirmed by family representative Imara Canady, who said he died of natural causes. Often called the “dean” of the civil rights movement, he worked hand in hand in the movement’s formative years with the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson.He once said he missed “Martin” and other civil rights activists who had died before him. But he felt that God was keeping him for a single cause: To address the injustices of the criminal justice system, particularly toward poor black men.”It’s the last facet here of racial oppression,” Lowery once said of the American criminal justice system.

In 1957, as racial tensions rose across the United States, Lowery helped start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights organization with King. Their work helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Johnson signed.”We had been through sit-ins and kneel-ins where we had been beat up and locked up and cussed out and locked out,” Lowery said in a 1994 interview. “It was a milestone, a watershed. It helped America take off the cloak of official segregation.”Lowery later served as the SCLC’s president for more than two decades, leading protests for civil rights in South Africa and peace in the Middle East.He remained an activist even after retiring in 1992, fighting for gay rights and election reform, and against capital punishment.

“We had to remain ever vigilant … and energetic to protect those rights, lest the clock be turned back,” Lowery said.He vowed never to seek political office, like some of his fellow activists, because he said he could achieve more for the civil rights movement from among the people. “He was a champion for civil rights, a challenger of injustice, a dear friend to the King family. Thank you, sir,” the King Center tweeted Friday night.