Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers

Decatur, Newton County, Mississippi, USA
Death 12 Jun 1963 (aged 37)
Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 36, Lot 1431, Grid BB-40
Memorial ID 322 · View Source
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Civil Rights Leader, Social Reformer. As field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi, his assassination galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. Known today more for his struggles for civil rights in Mississippi and his untimely death than for his writings, Medgar Evers nevertheless left behind an impressive record of achievement. He was, by all accounts, a hardworking, thoughtful, and somewhat quiet man. Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925, near Decatur, Mississippi, and attended school there until he left school for the army in 1943. Raised in a small central Mississippi town, Evers absorbed his parent's work ethic and strong religious values early. Friends remembered him as a serious child with an air of maturity about him. After serving in Normandy during World War II, he got his high school diploma and attended Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University), majoring in business administration. While at Alcorn, he was a member of the debate team, the college choir and the football and track teams, and he also held several student offices and was editor of the campus newspaper for two years and the annual for one year. In recognition of his accomplishments at Alcorn, he was listed in Who's Who in American Colleges. At Alcorn, Evers met Myrlie Beasley, of Vicksburg, and the next year, they were married on December 24, 1951. He received his B. A. degree the next semester and the couple moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, during which time Evers began to establish local chapters of the NAACP throughout the Delta and organizing boycotts of gasoline stations that refused to allow blacks to use their restrooms. He worked in Mound Bayou as an insurance agent with Magnolia Mutual Insurance until 1954, the year a Supreme Court decision ruled school segregation unconstitutional. Despite the court's ruling, Evers applied for and was denied admission to the University of Mississippi Law School, but his attempt to integrate the state's oldest public university attracted the attention of the NAACP's national office, and that same year he was appointed Mississippi's first field secretary for the NAACP. He had two main roles - to recruit and enroll new members, and to investigate and publicize the racists terrorism experienced by African Americans. Evers and his wife moved to Jackson, where they worked together to set up the NAACP office, and he began investigating violent crimes committed against African Americans and sought ways to prevent them. A dangerous job, Evers was followed, mocked, threatened and beaten while he traveled throughout Mississippi. Organizations like the white Citizens' Councils and the State Sovereignty Committee spied on him. His boycott of Jackson merchants in the early 1960s attracted national attention and his efforts to have James Meredith admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962 brought much needed federal help for which he had been soliciting. Meredith was admitted to Ole Miss, a major step in securing civil rights in the state, but and ensuing riot on campus left two people dead, and Ever's involvement in this and other activities increased the hatred many people felt toward him. In May 1963, a month before Evers was murdered, someone threw a bomb into his garage. Not only did Evers continue the NAACP's long-standing research on lynching, he also worked on the legal front, filing petitions and organizing protests against the Jim Crow segregation that still made it impossible for African Americans to go to movie theaters, eat in restaurants, or make use of public libraries, parks, and pools. Throughout the spring of 1963 he was the leader of a series of boycotts, meetings, and public appearances that were designed to bring Mississippi out of its racist past. Just before midnight on June 11, 1963, as he was returning home, Medgar Evers was shot in the back by an assassin's bullet in the driveway of his home. He died a few minutes later on June 12. Five thousand people marched through the streets of Jackson to view Evers's body on June 15, 1963. Twenty thousand people black and white leaders from around the nation including Roy Wilkins and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended his funeral and then gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for his interment. Following his death, Evers's brother, Charles, took over his position as state field secretary for the NAACP. Evers's accussed killer, a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith, stood trial twice in the 1960s, but in both cases the all-white juries could not reach a verdict. Finally, in a third trial on February 5, 1994 (and thirty-one years after Evers's murder) Beckwith was finally convicted and sentenced to life in prision. The legacy of Medgar Evers is everywhere present in the Mississippi of today. This peaceful man, who constantly urged that "violence is not the way" but who paid for his beliefs with his life, was a prominent voice in the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi. Many tributes have been paid to Medgar Evers over the years, including a book by his widow, For Us, the Living, but perhaps the greatest tribute can be found in changes noted in Mississippi Black History Makers.

Bio by: Curtis Jackson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 322
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Medgar Evers (2 Jul 1925–12 Jun 1963), Find a Grave Memorial no. 322, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .