By TOBY HARNDEN
PUBLISHED: 16:22 EST, 1 November 2012 | UPDATED: 17:39 EST, 1 November 2012
- Lowery, 91, was speaking at event in Georgia
- Took part in Obama’s inauguration ceremony in 2009
Icon: The Reverend Joseph Lowery said that he believed ‘all white people were going to hell’
A civil rights icon who gave the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration said that he believed ‘all white people were going to hell’.
The Reverend Joseph Lowery, 91, was speaking at a rally in Georgia.
According to an account in the Monroe County Reporter: ‘Lowery said that when he was a young militant, he used to say all white folks were going to hell.
‘Then he mellowed and just said most of them were. Now, he said, he is back to where he was.’
He was also quoted as telling an audience at the St James Baptist Church in Forsyth, Georgia: ‘I don’t know what kind of a n***er wouldn’t vote with a black man running he also told according to the paper.
Lowery told the Daily Caller that he didn’t remember making the n-word comment. ‘I never said that, I don’t remember saying that.’
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Obama.
Honor: President Obama presented Lowery with the 2009 Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award
During his inauguration benediction in January 2009, he said: ‘Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labour’s rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man — and when white will embrace what is right.’
An aide to Lowery, Helen Butler, told the Daily Caller: ‘He was saying [that] based on all of the hatred that’s going on (towards the president). He just felt that he should feel the way he used to feel.’
She added: ‘He was trying to get people motivated to ensure they go and vote…. [and] he did make the point that there is a lot of hatred in this country.’
Lowery was a pastor in Mobile, Alabama during the civil rights era.
After the arrest of Rosa Parks, he helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott and led the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 at the request of his friend Martin Luther King.
Controversial: Lowery made the comments while speaking at a rally in Georgia for President Barack Obama, pictured speaking at a campaign event in Wisconsin