Evelyn Lowery, a civil rights and womens’ empowerment movement pioneer and the wife of Rev. Joseph P. Lowery, Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader, died Sept. 26, at the family home in Atlanta, Ga. She was 88.

The founder of SCLC/ Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now, she had been hospitalized since Sept. 18 after suffering a severe stroke, according to the Associated Press.

The organization she founded was an advocacy group for the rights of women, children and families and was active in HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives. She created the Drum Major for Justice Award, which recognizes contributions to the Civil Rights Movement.

“My beloved Evelyn was a special woman, whose life was committed to service, especially about the issues of empowering women. She was a wonderful mother and wife and I thank God that she didn’t suffer any pain and that I was blessed having her as my partner, my confidant and my best friend for close to 70 years,” said Lowery, an SCLC past president.

“Today, we mourn the passing of a champion for civil and human rights,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Ms. Lowery’s foresight and leadership pushed the envelope of what organizations like the SCLC and the NAACP could do for women and families. Her legacy lives on in the coalitions she built and the strong foundation she laid. She was a hero and will be truly missed.

“A pioneer and champion in the civil rights movement has passed on,” stated NAACP Board Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “Evelyn Lowery’s leadership was essential to the longevity and power behind the movement for equality. Ms. Lowery was a drum major for justice in her own right. Her spirit lives on in the initiatives she founded and in the activists she mentored across the nation.”