Forsyth mayor responds to Lowery speech - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Forsyth mayor responds to Lowery speech

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FORSYTH, Ga. -

The mayor of Forsyth is responding to comments he made after a controversial speech by the Rev. Joseph Lowery. John Howard was in the audience last week when Lowery made remarks that have caused a stir.

Howard is the first African-American mayor of Forsyth, Ga. and said that he regrets the racially-charged firestorm that has resulted from Lowery's speech at a church last Saturday.

According to Diane Glidewell of 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."

Lowery said on Friday that the remarks have been taken out of context.

Howard admits that his comments afterwards have fanned the flames. He told a reporter that he was shocked and had someone made the same comment that blacks were going to hell, he would have gotten up and left.

"Those are jokes that I don't make. I stay away from those types of jokes because I understand that, although we are living in a different time, those issues are still sensitive to a lot of people so I Just don't get involved in that," said Howard.

Mayor Howard says at the time, he was empathizing with a white reporter who he says appeared upset about Lowery's comments.

"I just feel like we just need to calm down and let it go, because we still have to work together," said Howard.

Howard says he was shocked by Dr. Lowery's frankness. Although he admires the civil rights icon, he says had never met or even heard him speak before.

"What I hate is I think I'm being viewed more so as fuel to keep the fire burning, but it was more so -- I was just caught off guard because I didn't know what was going to say. I didn't know anything about his speech. What I said when I got up and spoke, I said, ‘Dr. Lowery would use two words: vote and important and that's good enough for me,'" said Howard.

Howard was trying to defuse the situation afterwards. He said that he is not that overly concerned about being my quoted in the local newspaper. He understands that that can happen but said it was clearly never his intention to criticize Lowery.

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