At a funeral service for civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth Monday, 90-year-old Rev. Joseph Lowery said that the Republican Party would be better off with more white leaders like Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R).
Bentley, who also spoke at the service in Birmingham, Alabama, recalled growing up as a white person in the Jim Crow South and praised Shuttlesworth for reversing "the teachings of a misdirected society."
"The biggest challenge we have is for white folks -- that Republican governor who spoke here, he ought to give leadership to the Republican Party," Lowery explained. "What the Republican Party needs is leadership. They ain't going to get it from Herman Cain. He's going to say what they want to hear.
"But they need a white man like that governor to tell it like it is and help the Republicans understand that we ain't going back. Ain't no need to try and turn back the clock. Hell, we ain't going back! Come too far! Marched too long! Prayed too hard! Wept too bitterly! Bled too profusely and died too young! Ain't going back! And somebody needs to lead the Republican Party from darkness into light."
Lowery added: "And we need the kind of leadership that governor can give to help Republicans stop trying to turn back the clock. This country is in trouble. Not because of the lack of black leadership, it's because we don't have any white leadership. There ain't no need in white folks having a fit because we got a black president. Hell, he's there. He ain't going nowhere. He's president. Might as well accept that. He's the president. We respected white presidents hundreds of years. You ought to deal with one black president with respect."
The civil rights leader then returned to the subject of Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who recently said that he "left the Democrat plantation a long time ago." Cain has also claimed that African Americans "have been brainwashed into not being open-minded" and that he doesn't believe "racism in this country today holds anybody back."
"Laughing about Herman Cain," he said. "Herman Cain is having a good time though, I'll tell you that. He's having a ball. He ain't helping us much but he's having a ball. And he's not helping white folks because he won't tell white folks what they need to hear. He's telling them what they want to hear."
Lowery became associated with the civil rights movement after he helped to lead the Montgomery bus boycott in the wake of Rosa Park's 1955 arrest. He later helped Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and acted as its president from 1977 to 1997.