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May 21, 2024

Beloved Mound Bayou Matriarch Passes

Community is mourning the loss of Jessie Lowry 

By Jack Criss, The Bolivar Bullet

The town of Mound Bayou is mourning the passing last week of one its most notable residents and a lifelong “mother figure” to generations of people in the community, Jessie Lowry. She passed away last Tuesday, April 16, at the age of 93, leaving behind a legacy of love, devotion to God and her community and having touched many lives.

Visitation for Mrs. Lowry will be held on Friday, May 3, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church in Mound Bayou. A “Celebration of Life” will be held the next day, Saturday, May 4, beginning at 11:00 a.m at First Baptist Church in town. Lowry’s repast will be held at the Fred B. Clark Family Unity Center at a day and time to be announced.

“I had lived with my mother for the past 40 years,” said oldest daughter, Joyce Lowry. “And, to me, her greatest legacy would be that her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all have a relationship with God.” Lowry’s children include Joyce, daughters Baj and Jaime and son, Chuck, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

Born in Port Gibson, Lowry was a classmate of Myrlie Evers while going to high school in Vicksburg and also knew and befriended Mamie Till during the latter’s brief stay in Mound Bayou, where Lowry had moved in 1958. 

Lowry’s husband, the late Dr. James L. Lowry – who tragically passed away in 1972 of a sudden heart attack – was known as the physician of many African-American patients in Mound Bayou and throughout the Delta and also trained numerous Black doctors at the former Taborian Hospital in town, where he was medical director.. The couple had met while both students at Alcorn State University. 

“My mother, besides being our father’s biggest supporter, was also a homemaker all of her life as well as a licensed cosmetologist,” said daughter, Joyce. “She worked out of her home and, really, never met a stranger. She was so kind-hearted and always willing to help anyone at any time. She would cook for people, bake cookies for them – do whatever people needed in Mound Bayou. My mother would also always say, ‘Put God first,’ which she herself did, up until the last months of her life.”

A member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Mound Bayou, her daughter said that church members would come to her mother’s home over the past few months when she herself was no longer able to get out and go to services.

“She was last in church in early January of this year, right before we had the big ice storm,” said Joyce. “But the minister would come here to the house during those times that she could not attend. That’s how much she meant to the church and how much the church meant to her.”

Daughter Baj said that, when younger, her mother had a passion for helping seniors in the Mound Bayou community, driving them to appointments, cooking meals for them and assisting them in whatever ways they needed. 

“And I remember something my mother was also specifically very proud of,” continued Baj. “In 1975, when my sister Jaime’s  senior high school class from John F. Kennedy High School was preparing to take their annual trip to Washington, D.C., Momma started fundraising, along with some other parents, to pay for every student to attend. They had bake sales, held dances, sold items, had quilt raffles – anything in order to raise money so that every one of those kids could go on that trip. And they all did, for the first time, at no cost to any of them. Two Greyhound buses were filled to capacity heading for Washington.”

The daughters said their mother’s life revolved around doing things for and helping others, but that one of her hobbies was being an avid newspaper reader and collector.

“She subscribed to many newspapers from all over the state and region, and she would read them cover to cover every single day,” laughed Joyce. “That included The Bolivar Bullet. She could tell you anything about current events.”

The ladies also said their mother could bake an incredible pound cake from scratch. 

“Momma came out to visit me in Tucson, Arizona where I live,” said Baj. “And it just so happened that the pastry chef from one of the former restaurants there, a very successful establishment called Pastiche, was able to taste her poundcake. She liked it so much that she added it to the restaurant’s menu as ‘Mrs. Lowry’s Pound Cake,'” she laughed.

People from across the state, and the South, are expected to pay their respects to Mrs. Lowery at the services honoring her life, her daughters said. “She never met a stranger. Momma knew everybody,” said Joyce. 

In lieu of flowers, the Lowry family is asking that donations be made to their mother’s favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children Hospital in Memphis. An online memorial fund in Jessie Lowry’s name has been established in her honor. “She loved the great work of Danny Thomas and the work he did in starting St. Jude’s and she would ofter raise money for the hospital,” said Baj. “Our father would even send patients to St. Jude’s and, of course, the children were never turned away.” The link to make donations is  https://fundraising.st.jude.org/site/TR?px=8376892&fr_id=154020&pg=personal

Darryl Johnson, Mound Bayou historian/archivist and Executive Director of the Mound Bayou Museum of African-American Cultural History — and longtime close friend of the Lowry family — said Mrs. Lowry’s passing is a major loss to the community and to the state of Mississippi. 

“She stood for the matriarchal side of a connected community, something which is central to African-American culture and tradition,” said Johnson. “She was highly respected and loved throughout her life and will be sorely missed, I assure you. Mrs. Lowry was a mother-figure to many people, not just in Mound Bayou, but across the nation.”