President Donald Trump is expected to appoint the Rev. Tony Lowden — the first African American man to pastor former President Jimmy Carter’s church in Plains, Georgia — as his administration’s “reentry czar,” a position designed to help former inmates transition back into the workforce.
Lowden is pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church, a congregation with whom Carter, now 95, has been deeply involved. In fact, it was the former commander-in-chief who called Lowden last year to ask if he’d be interested in serving as interim pastor at Maranatha.
Lowden’s tenure at Maranatha is noteworthy, as the church was founded in 1977, when a group of congregants broke away from Plains Baptist Church after its members voted against allowing black attendees to join. Carter, for his part, continued attending Sunday school at Plains and worshipped at Maranatha. When he left the White House in 1981, he moved his membership to the new church.
In a statement of his own following the announcement from the Trump administration, Carter praised Lowden as the perfect candidate for the job.
“I cannot think of anyone better than Tony Lowden to lead a national effort to help those who have served time in prison get a true second chance once they are released,” he said in a statement shared with CNN this week. “With support and resources, recidivism can decrease and former inmates can become productive members of their communities. The congregation at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains will help in any way we can.”
Trump is expected to formally tap Lowden, 52, for the task during an event Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to McClatchy DC.
The president first outlined the initiative in March 2018, when he signed an executive order establishing a Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry. Trump has made prison reform a central tenet of his presidency.
Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to the president and member of the council, said Trump “has been totally committed to second chances and this is that next step to pave the way, and really creating, and reducing recidivism.”
As “reentry czar,” Lowden will work with local communities around the country to help coalesce businesses, associations, faith-based groups, law enforcement officers, and community organizations with the goal of helping former prisoners succeed as they reenter society after being released from federal custody.
This will not be the first time Lowden has worked on this issue.
When former Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) was in office, Lowden served as his director of faith and justice initiative in the Office of Transition Support and Reentry, according to the church’s website.
Smith told McClatchy Lowden will be working alongside a team in the White House already dedicated to “opportunity zones” — low-income areas for which Trump has already approved tax breaks for investors — as well as funding and outreach to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“It’s not opportunity tomorrow; it’s not opportunity yesterday,” said Smith. “It’s opportunity right now, and in order to get opportunity right now, we need robust partnerships.”