(CNN) — The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a legendary leader in America’s civil rights movement, died Friday at age 98.
His death was confirmed by Imara Canady, a board member for the Joseph & Evelyn Lowery Institute.
Lowery founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was sometimes referred to as the dean of the civil rights movement.
He worked hand in hand in the movement’s formative years with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
He once said he missed King 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.
Joseph Echols Lowery was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on October 6, 1921. His father owned a small business, and his mother was a part-time schoolteacher. He married Evelyn Gibson in 1950. The couple had three daughters, and Lowery had two sons from a previous marriage.
His hometown was typical of Southern mill villages of the 1920s, where racial lines were well-defined and the Ku Klux Klan used cross burnings and other scare tactics against African-Americans.
Lowery said it was an encounter with a police officer at his father’s sweets shop when he was 12 or 13 years old that triggered his desire to work as a civil rights activist.