Alcorn, boycott, boycott white merchants, Byron de la Beckwith, Charles Evers, Civil Rights Movement, integration, Jackson Mississippi, James Meredith, JFK, Medgar Evers, Mississippi, Myrlie Evers, NAACP, Ole Miss, University of Mississippi, voting rights, World War II
President John F. Kennedy (center) visits with Myrlie Evers (far left), widow of civil rights leader, Medgar Evers. Also pictured: Reena and Darrell Evers, children of Medgar and Myrlie; Charles Evers (far right), brother of Medgar. An unidentified man stands in back at right. Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. Date 21 June 1963 Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
“As the first National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field secretary in Mississippi (1954-1963), Medgar Evers sacrificed his life while working to end racial violence and improve the quality of life for black Mississippians.
Evers and his wife Myrlie established the NAACP office in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid-1950s. He tirelessly led marches, prayer vigils, voter registration drives and boycotts.
As early as 1955, Evers’ name appeared on a death list. Yet he persistently appealed to blacks and whites to work together for a peaceful solution to social problems. The eyes of the nation turned to Jackson in the early 1960s as Evers orchestrated a boycott of white merchants.
Backed by federal troops, he also led efforts to help James Meredith integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962.
When disgruntled racists hurled a firebomb into the Evers home in 1963, Myrlie Evers bravely put out the flames with a garden hose. Evers continued his work, but an assassin’s bullet ended his life a few weeks later outside his home. Evers’ brother Charles took up his work as the NAACP field secretary in Mississippi.
In 1994 – 31 years and three trials later – Evers’ killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
As the child of a Mississippi farmer, Medgar Evers experienced racism everyday. White children on school buses taunted him as he walked 12 miles each way to the ill-equipped school for black children. Friends became lynching victims.
Evers joined the Army and served honorably in Germany and France during World War II.
When he returned, he joined the NAACP after a mob of armed whites wouldn’t let him enter the polls to vote. He enrolled in Alcorn College (1948-1952) and married fellow college student Myrlie Beasley in 1951. Over the next two years, Evers worked as an insurance salesman in Mound Bayou and organized NAACP chapters throughout the Mississippi Delta.
Myrlie Evers, the couple’s daughter, two sons and the nation continue to honor the slain activist’s memory. A statue of Evers stands in Jackson, Mississippi and Medgar Evers College stands in Brooklyn, New York.” https://www.nps.gov/features/malu/feat0002/wof/medgar_evers.htm
From the FBI:
“About half past midnight, a shot rang out.
It was June 12, 1963—55 years ago —in a suburban neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi. A 37-year-old civil rights activist named Medgar Evers had just come home after a meeting of the NAACP.
As he began the short walk up to his single-story rambler, the bullet struck Evers in the back. He staggered up to the steps of the house, then collapsed.
Across the street on a lightly wooded hill, another man jumped up in pain. The recoil from the Enfield rifle he had just fired drove the scope into his eye, badly bruising him. He dropped the weapon and fled.
Meanwhile, Evers’ wife and three children—still awake after watching an important civil rights speech by President John F. Kennedy—heard the shot and quickly came outside. They were soon joined by neighbors and police. His wounds severe, Evers died within the hour.
Leading the investigation, the local police immediately found the rifle and determined that it had been recently fired. Back at the station, a fingerprint was recovered from the scope and submitted to the FBI. We connected it to a man named Byron De La Beckwith based on its similarity to his military service prints. He was arrested several days later. Beckwith, a known white supremacist and segregationist, had been asking around to find out the location of Evers’ home for some time prior to the shooting.
With the obvious motive, his fingerprint on the weapon, the injury around his eye, his planning, and other factors, Beckwith clearly appeared to be the killer. In two separate trials, local prosecutors presented a strong case. A number of police, FBI experts, and others testified on different parts of the evidence against Beckwith.
But this was the 1960s, and in both trials, all-white juries did not reach a verdict. Beckwith went free.
By the early 1990s, however, the time was ripe to revisit the case. Evers’ widow, Myrlie—a formidable civil rights organizer in her own right—asked local prosecutors to reopen the investigation and see if other evidence could be found. The FBI again provided its assistance. In December 1990, a new grand jury returned an indictment against Beckwith based on witnesses finally willing to tell their stories, including hearing the white supremacist brag how he had killed Medgar Evers.
This time, justice was done. Beckwith was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison.
The murder of Medgar Evers was a loss to his family, the community, and the nation. Evers was a devoted husband and father, a distinguished World War II veteran, and a pioneering civil rights leader. He served as the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi—organizing protests and voter registration drives, recruiting new workers into the civil rights movement, and pushing for school integration.
But his death in 1963 was not in vain. The brutal, senseless murder helped galvanize the nation in its steady march towards equality and justice. https://www.fbi. gov/history/famous-cases/medgar-evers
The original says: “It was June 12, 1963—50 years ago tomorrow—in a suburban neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi“, but the text was updated.