Michael D. Lowery was born in Madisonville and attended Mrs. Mae Sue Wynn’s Kindergarten. He graduated from Madisonville North Hopkins High School in the first graduating class from that school.
While in high school, Lowery was a member of the White House Conference on the Children and Youth Program, Art Club, Young Democrats Club, and played trumpet in the Rosenwald High School Marching Band while in the seventh grade at Branch Street School.
During his teens and early 20s, he was blessed to have traveled to 48 of the 50 states with his fraternal grandmother, traveling to visit relatives, going to Baptist conventions, NAACP conventions, Urban League, and other events that were deemed important. During these travels he met many famous people like Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Adam Clayton Powell, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Benjamin Mayes, and Michael Jordan (who is a member of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, Inc. and many others.
Lowery also served on the NAACP board with the Merlie Evers, the widow of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers. Lowery also prides himself for having had the opportunity to interview Mrs. Angela Davis for the Black Student Union newsletter. These are just a few African-Americans that he has met and worked with over the years.
Lowery served on the Kentucky Education Association’s elections committee for the First District, and for NEA were he had the opportunity to interview the then candidate Barack Obama, who was seeking the support of the delegates. He also attended the 2009 Inauguration of President Barack Obama.
In 1963, Lowery attended the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. Lower attended with his grandmother, dad, cousins and other relatives. He sites this as one of the greatest experiences he ever had, liking it to a spiritual church service. He met many people there who would later become lifelong friends.
The following year, he attended the March in Frankfort where Dr. King spoke again to the Civil Rights leaders from Kentucky. He attended with one of his mentors, Ms. Willie Mae Elliott, along with Mr. Willie Bradley, and other members of the local NAACP. He later became president of the local NAACP, serving for over twenty years. Lowery being later in life attended the Million Man March in Washington.
The night Dr. King was killed, Lowery led a march from Tucker’s Grocery and Restaurant where he along with his sister Gwen Collins and friends Jackie Vaughn, Mary Reeves, and Oletha Hopson were refused service. The march went through the Rosenwald Apartments, down Arch Street to Madisonville High School. The march disbanded after a prayer led by Stella Johnson White, a student at Madisonville High School.
Lowery received a Bachelors of Religious Education from Hopkinsville College of the Bible. He started the interest group of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. one of the oldest Black fraternities in America founded at Howard University in 1911.
Returning to Murray State this fall for the 50th Anniversary of the Alpha Beta Chapter at Murray State University, which he was the founder of the interest group to this fraternity. Lowery went on to graduate from Murray State University with a Bachelors in History and minor in Social Work, Masters in Education, and post graduate work at Butler University in Indianapolis, and many hours above towards a PhD.
Lowery has worked for Elliott Mortuary before his teens, under the guidance of Ms. Elliott. She and her entire family were friends with my family. “James VanLeer, Ms. Elliott’s nephew, and I were roommates at Murray and had been friend all our lives.”
He and his mother Mrs. Elizabeth VanLeer, were an inspiration to Lowery. Hanes was the first African American to integrate schools in Hopkins County.
After Ms. Elliott’s passing, he continues working at Elliott’s Mortuary, where his cousins are are now the owners and directors, the Bowles Brothers.
While at Murray, Lowery organized the Black Student Union and it became one of the most outstanding BSU’s in the South. After college, Lowery went on to teach in the public school systems in Indiana, Texas, and the Breckinridge Job Corps.
He worked with Western Kentucky Legal Services for a period of time as a paralegal (Community Education Specialist. He traveled to Atlanta and Washington, D.C. for training, becoming a substitute teacher at Browning Springs Middle School, Day Treatment administration and teacher, Gifted and Talented teacher at Browning Springs Middle School for many years, and Madisonville North Hopkins High School, retiring in 2014.
He received the highest award from the Kentucky Education Association, the Lucy Smith Atwood S. Wilson Award for Civil and Human Rights In Education in 1990. The middle school teacher of the year earned him the right to be featured in Jet Magazine in 1992.
Information for this article was submitted by the Concerned Citizens Society of Hopkins County.