Warm Southern Breeze

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Remembering Medgar Evers

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, June 12, 2017

Mourners saying farewell to slain NAACP official Medgar Evers at his funeral, June 15, 1963.

Today marks the 54th anniversary of the death of WWII Veteran & Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

His death, along with that of 14-year old Emmet Till’s 1955 torture and murder, were seminal events in the Civil Rights Movement.

At 12:40 a.m., June 12, 1963, as he stood in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi, 37-year old Medgar Evers was shot in the back by a Ku Klux Klansman who used a high-powered rifle.

Though he was rushed to a nearby hospital, he died less than a hour later.

During WWII, Evers volunteered in the Army, and participated in the Normandy invasion. After tours of duty in France & Germany, he was Honorably Discharged in 1946, and in 1948 enrolled at Alcorn Agricutural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) in Lorman, Mississippi. During his Senior year there, he married Myrlie Beasley, a fellow student, and they later had three children: Darrell, Reena, and James.

LIFE magazine cover 06-28-1963 Son & widow of Medgar Evers attending his funeral after he was killed by civil rights opponents.

After graduating Alcorn A&M in 1952, he moved to Philadelphia, Mississippi, and began working as an insurance salesman. With his older brother, Charles Evers, that same year he started working on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), organizing local affiliates in that town.

After working in the Insurance Industry, and following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education SCOTUS decision, he decided to apply to the University of Mississippi Law School that same year, and was denied admission based upon his skin color.

Later that year he moved to Jackson with his family, and actively worked to integrate the University of Mississippi – aka “Ole Miss,” the state’s oldest institution of Public Education, and located in Oxford – and in conjunction with his Voter Registration efforts, earned the NAACP’s attention who made him the organization’s first Field Secretary for the state.

Evers’ killer, Byron De La Beckwith, twice escaped conviction when two all-White juries deadlocked, but 31 years later, in 1989, after pressure from Evers’ widow Myrlie Evers Williams, the Hinds County, MS, Assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter reopened the Evers murder case, which eventually resulted in Beckwith’s 1994 conviction and sentence of Life Imprisonment at age 74.

Mourners at Medgar Evers interment, June 16, 1963

It was upon discovery of new evidence – notably De La Beckwith’s numerous open confessions of murdering Evers – for which he was extradited from Signal Mountain, TN where had since moved. De La Beckwith’s attorneys lost appeal of his conviction before the Mississippi State Supreme Court, and were denied certiorari by the SCOTUS.

De La Beckwith died while incarcerated, following hospitalization in Jackson, Mississippi, aged 80.

Evers was interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Steeldrivers – “Ghosts Of Mississippi”

Late one night behind corn whiskey
I fell asleep with a guitar in my hand
I dreamed about the ghosts of Mississippi
And the blues came walkin’ in like a man
Without a word I passed that guitar over
He tuned it up like I’d never seen
A crooked smile was his expression
Then he closed his eyes and began to sing

Oh Lord why have you forsaken me
Got me down in Mississippi where I don’t want to be
Oh Lord why have you forsaken me
Got me down in Mississippi where I don’t want to be

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