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Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925 in Mississippi. He went to school at the Alcorn College. There he was a member of the debate team, choir, track team, and football team. He was listed in the "Who’s Who in American Colleges."
Working for the NAACP
He served in the United States Army during World War II from 1943 through 1945. When he returned to the US, he met Myrlie Beasley and they married in 1951. Soon after he returned, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree and he began setting up local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP.) He also organized boycotts against gas stations that did not let Blacks use their restrooms. He then worked as an insurance agent until 1954 when segregation was declared unconstitutional.
Discrimination in Colleges
Evers then tried to get into the University of Mississippi Law School and was rejected. He felt that discrimination was the reason. This did get the attention of the NAACP, however, and that same year they appointed him as Mississippi's first field secretary.
Evers and his wife then moved to Jackson, Mississippi to set up an NAACP office. There he investigated violent crimes that were committed against Blacks and tried to think of ways to prevent them. He also conducted campaigns to help Blacks to become registered voters. In the 1960’s he set up boycotts against certain merchants and this attracted national attention. He also tried to have his friend admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, and he was denied. This finally brought the federal help that Evers was looking for. His friend was finally admitted to the university. This was a major event for civil rights and Evers was thrilled. Evers was a civil rights leader trying to gain equality for the Blacks in his state.
Violence Breaks Out
Unfortunately, not everyone was as happy as Evers. A riot started on the campus and four people died. Hatred for Evers grew among many people. There were many problems between the Blacks and Whites such as brutal fights.
Evers was assassinated on June 12, 1963 at the age of 38 in front of his home in Jackson as he returned from work. Evers’ wife and children heard the shots and ran to the front door where they saw him laying in a pool of blood with his keys in his hand. Both Blacks and Whites came from all over the nation for his funeral. Evers was buried with other heroes in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Trial of Evers' Murderer
Evers’ brother Charles took over the position of field secretary for the NAACP and later he served as the Mayor of Fayette, Mississippi from 1969 through 1981.
Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was tried for the murder on two occasions and it resulted with a hung jury. However, he was finally sentenced to life in prison in 1994. De La Beckwith openly mocked the law enforcement for not being able to convict him for over 25 years. Then, finally, in 1989 a reporter ran across records that revealed that a secret background check had been done on the jurors in the first two trials.
An assistant district attorney, Bobby DeLaughter, finally got new evidence which convicted De La Beckwith. Some of the evidence was from witnesses who placed him near the murder scene, some heard him admit that he killed Evans, the gun was found with Beckwith’s fingerprints, and the transcript of the first trial was important in the conviction. De La Beckwith was 73 years of age when he was sentenced to life in prison and 42 years of age when he murdered Evers.
After years of hard work spent convicting De La Beckwith, the young District Attorney is now a judge in Hinds County, Mississippi. Evers’ wife will be thankful to him forever.
What Evers fought for is still followed today in Mississippi. His loud voice about violence not being the way for the people of Mississippi helped civil rights, but he ended up losing his own life fighting for equality.
He will be respected always. Many tributes have been paid to Evers including two books, one written by his wife, Myrlia Evers. I believe Evers would be proud to know that there are 145 elected black officials in Mississippi and that Blacks can enroll in all Mississippi schools today.
Medgar Evers Timeline
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