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Medgar Wiley Evers
July 2, 1925
Decatur, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||June 12, 1963
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
|Cause of death||Assassination|
|Education||Alcorn State University|
|Occupation||Civil rights activist|
Myrlie Evers (m. 1951–1963)
|Parent(s)||James Evers (father)
Jesse Wright (mother)
Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an American civil rights activist from Decatur Mississippi. He is best known for his work to overturn racial segregation in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. He was a World War II veteran. He became a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). After the 1954 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers worked to get African Americans admitted to the all-white University of Mississippi. He also worked for other changes in the nation's then-segregated society, such as voting rights and registration, economic opportunity, and access to public facilities for African Americans. Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the “White Citizens' Council, a group formed in 1954 to resist integration of schools and civil rights activity in America. His murder and the resulting trials led to many civil rights protests. An all-white jury failed to convict De La Beckwith in his first two trials. He was finally convicted, however, 30 years later in a new state trial in 1994 that was based on new evidence. Evers’ wife Myrlie Evers, later became a noted activist in her own right, serving as national chair of the NAACP. His brother Charles Evers became the first African-American mayor elected in the state of Mississippi in 1969 in Fayette, Mississippi.
Early life and Career
Evers was the third of the five children born to Jesse (Wright) and James Evers. The family included his father Jesse's two children from a previous marriage. The Evers family owned a small farm, and his father also worked at a sawmill. Evers walked twelve miles to attend segregated schools, and earned his high school diploma. Evers served in the United States Army during World War II from 1943 to 1945. He fought in the Battle of Normandy in June 1944. After the end of the war, Evers was honorably discharged as a sergeant.
In 1948, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College, now Alcorn State University majoring in business administration. He also competed on the debate, football, and track teams, sang in the choir, and was junior class president. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1952. He married classmate Myrlie Beasley in 1951 while they were still in college. Together they had three children: Darrell Kenyatta, Reena Denise, and James Van Dyke Evers.The couple moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, a town that was founded by African Americans. There Evers became a salesman for T. R. M. Howard's Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. In 1954, Evers applied to the segregated University of Mississippi Law School as a test case for the NAACP, but his application was rejected because of his race. In late 1954, Evers was named the NAACP's first field secretary for Mississippi. In this position, he helped organize boycotts and set up new local chapters of the NAACP. He was involved with James Meredith's efforts to enroll in the University of Mississippi in the early 1960s. Evers also helped Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr., organize the Biloxi, Mississippi wade-ins, protests against segregation of public beaches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Evers' civil rights work and leadership made him a target of white supremacists. His public investigations into the 1955 lynching of teenager Emmett Till had made him a prominent black leader. On May 28, 1963, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home.
On June 12, 1963, Evers pulled into his driveway after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. As he was getting out of his car he was shot in the back and the bullet passed through his heart. He was taken to a hospital in Jackson, Mississippi where he was first refused entry because of his race. After his family explained who he was, the hospital went on and admitted him. He died in the hospital about 50 minutes later.As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
- Gwin, Minrose. "Mourning Medgar: Justice, Aesthetics, and the Local", March 11, 2008. Southern Spaces http://southernspaces.org/2008/mourning-medgar-justice-aesthetics-and-local
- Retrieved February 22, 2010
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