Politicians, activists pay tribute to civil rights icon Joseph E. Lowery

Politicians from across the United States are paying respects after the passing of an Atlanta civil rights icon.

The family of Dr. Josephy E. Lowery, called the "dean of the civil rights movement" announced late Friday evening that the renown leader had died peacefully surrounded by family.

Since his death, many leaders both in Atlanta and beyond have talked about how much Lowery meant to them.

MORE: Family: 'Dean of the civil rights movement' Rev. Joseph E. Lowery passes away

"It’s hard to imagine a world or an Atlanta without Reverend #JosephLowery," Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., wrote on Twitter. "I’m grateful for a life well-lived and for its influence on mine. I'll miss you Uncle Joe."

Lowery was pastor of the Warren Street Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1950s when he met King, who then lived in Montgomery, Alabama. Lowery’s meetings with King, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and other civil rights activists led to the SCLC’s formation in 1957. The group became a leading force in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

Lowery became SCLC president in 1977 following the resignation of Abernathy, who had taken the job after King was assassinated in 1968. He took over an SCLC that was deeply in debt and losing members rapidly. Lowery helped the organization survive and guided it on a new course that embraced more mainstream social and economic policies.

The current president of the SCLC, Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. told FOX 5 that Lowery "had the gift of understanding people and working with individuals from all sectors of society."

"He had the gift of understanding people and working with individuals from all sectors of society. He was recognized as a great orator for delivering some powerful speeches, but he was just as gifted at motivating people from different cultures, religions and agendas to convene at the table to work together for the common good," Steele said. "With the problems we are addressing today around the world, he would continue to be that catalyst to bring folks together. He was that glue that kept us at the table until we found the solutions."

On Twitter, former president Barack Obama said that Lowery "was a giant who let so many of us stand on his shoulders."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told FOX 5 that she was "deeply saddened" by Lowery's death.

"Dr. Lowery has been an ever-present part of the fabric of Atlanta, from his leadership of the SCLC, to his pastoring Cascade United Church, to simply his participation in so many events, big and small, throughout our community." Bottoms said. "While we will truly miss his presence here on earth, as he often reminded us, we will see him in the morning.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said on Twitter that his heart goes out to Lowery's loved ones.

"The Reverend Joseph Lowery was a civil rights icon who changed the lives of countless people and made the world a better place. He will be missed by so many," Kemp wrote.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called the reverend "a spiritual leader - a sage who understood that politics did not stand separate from who we are but told the story of who we are willing to be."

Lowery is survived by his three daughters, Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery and Cheryl Lowery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.