Joe and Joyce Ellwanger will be honored for their 50-year commitment to community organizing, public service, racial equality, social justice and civil rights on Oct. 27 as recipients of the Lifetime Achievement award from the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.
A retired Lutheran pastor, Joe Ellwanger led the Birmingham Council on Human Relations and the Concerned White Citizens of Alabama, and was active in the civil rights movement in the south, marching beside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and visiting the families of the children killed in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham. Dr. King included him in a group of 15 pastors that met subsequently with President Lyndon Johnson to voice support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The couple moved from Alabama to Milwaukee during the late 1960s.
In Milwaukee, in 34 years as pastor of Cross Lutheran Church, Rev. Ellwanger led the transformation of of Cross Church from a congregation that was over 95% white to become an 80% black urban congregation with 700 members.
Joyce Ellwanger has been a staunch opponent of the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia -- where Central/Latin American military soldiers/advisers are taught and trained in immoral tactics such as torture and assassination -- and served six months in federal prison in 2003 after being arrested for taking part in a peaceful, nonviolent protest that involved walking on fort property that is off limits to the public.
The Ellwangers have been instrumental in starting and supporting several community organizations in Milwaukee, including Ezekiel CDC, Milwaukee Innercity Churches Allied for Hope (MICAH), and others, and have championed successful efforts to find alternative sentencing measures that help non-violent offenders receive substance abuse treatment.
The Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice is a statewide network of more than 160 organizations working for peace and social justice. The Ellwangers will be honored at a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Milwaukee Friends Meeting House, 3224 N.Gordon Place, at the conclusion of the organization’s annual fall meeting.