First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE - Welton Lowry, a retired educator and a tireless advocate for the rights of Lumbee people, died Friday at his Pembroke home. He was 91.
His daughter, Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend, spoke through tears this morning as she described her father's conviction concerning the importance of federal recognition for the Lumbees.
“When he would talk about recognition, he would always say he knew what he was,” she said. “Recognition to him was more about pride for Lumbee people, not about the financial aspect. He wanted people to really know who they are.”
Lowry made the trip to the nation's capital dozens of times over the years to help lobby for recognition, including last September when the Lumbee Bill passed in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
In an interview with The Robesonian last fall, Lowry reflected on his earliest memories of the struggle for federal recognition.
“I remember when I was 12, there was a meeting at St. Anna Church,” Lowry said. “They were taking up money to go to Washington to ask for money for the Indians. They were throwing pennies, quarters and dimes in a tin tub - they didn’t have $5 bills back then. We’ve come a long way. We are the most progressive Indians in the United States.”
Lowry was born on Sept. 26, 1913, in Pembroke, to the late Billy and Flora Locklear Lowry.
He was a graduate of Pembroke Normal School and Pembroke State University. He attended graduate school at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tenn.
He was a recipient of the Henry Berry Lowrie Award - named after his great-uncle - and the Leo Reno Award for his work with American Indian students. Lowry and Herbert Oxendine were the first American Indians to join the U.S. Army Air Corps Flying Cadets in 1939.
Lowry was a founding member of the Robeson Historical Drama and member of the Baptist Board of Higher Learning. He played golf until his death, and was active in the Senior Games. He participated in the broad jump event, the 100-yard dash, bowling and horseshoes.
Lowry spent 69 years as a minister, serving most of those years at West End Baptist Church of Lumberton. The church sanctuary is named in his honor and, for his contribution to Lumberton, the city proclaimed Sept. 26, 1984, as Welton Lowry Day.
Michael Brooks, a Pembroke doctor, said he first met Lowry in the sixth grade when he was a student of Lowry's.
“He left a deep impression then,” Brooks said. “It wasn't necessarily what he taught, his demeanor is what he passed on to his students and enriched their lives. That impression of his heart was a towering example of what I like to refer to as real Christianity.
“He embodied what it really meant to follow the Lord, in his word and his practice. That's one reason he was able to so effectively communicate with people. He was always that same individual from the sixth grade. Robeson County and the country is a little poorer now that he is gone.”
Lowry was also Sheriff Glenn Maynor's sixth-grade teacher and principal at Piney Grove School, and Maynor's former pastor.
“He was one of my mentors and a big inspiration in my life,” Maynor said. “He will be remembered for his wit and his knowledge of the Bible. He was well-loved and respected by all. I am certainly going to miss him, personally.”
Juddie Revels said he made his last weekly visit with Lowry on Wednesday.
“I went to get watermelons from him. He grew the biggest watermelons around. He loved his fruit trees, too,” Revels said. “He was a pillar of the community. He was a real wise, intelligent man. He would always give you a lot of good advice. If you met him, you never forgot him.”