Throughout his short life, Medgar Evers heroically spoke out against racism in the deeply divided South. He fought cruel Jim Crow laws, protested segregation in education, and launched an investigation into Emmett to the point of being lynched. In addition to playing a role in the civil rights movement, he served as the NAACP’s first field officer in Mississippi.
returning from the war
evers began his journey as a civil rights activist when he and five friends were rejected in a local election at gunpoint. He had just returned from the Battle of Normandy in World War II and realized that fighting for his country did not exempt him from racism or give him equal rights.
after attending historically black alcorn state university in mississippi and taking a job selling life insurance in the predominantly black city of mound bayou, evers became president of the regional council of black leadership (rcnl). As the organization’s leader, Evers mounted a boycott of gas stations that prohibited blacks from using their toilets, distributing bumper stickers reading “Don’t buy gas where you can’t use the toilet.” annual conferences between 1952 and 1954 on the bayou mound drew tens of thousands.
naacp field officer
evers soon became focused on desegregation after being rejected from the university of mississippi law school because of the color of his skin. brown v. The Supreme Court Board of Education ruled in 1954 declaring school segregation unconstitutional. His fight to desegregate the University of Mississippi Law School came to fruition eight years after it began when James Meredith enrolled in 1962.
As the first NAACP field officer in Mississippi, he consistently established new local chapters, organized voter registration drives, and helped lead protests to desegregate public elementary schools, parks, and beaches on Mississippi’s Gold Coast.
death and murder threats
evers gained notoriety in the eyes of white supremacists after becoming involved in two high-profile cases in mississippi. His public investigations into the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 and the conviction of Clyde Kennard, a black civil rights activist framed for crimes he did not commit, in 1960 left Evers vulnerable to attack. .
white supremacists made several attempts on evers’s life before being successful on june 12, 1963. after pulling into his driveway and exiting his car wearing naacp t-shirts reading “jim crow must go” Evers was shot in the back and died at the local hospital less than an hour later. He was assassinated just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s speech on national television in support of civil rights.
After becoming the first NAACP field officer in Mississippi and moving to the state capital of Jackson, he consistently established new local NAACP chapters, organized voter registration drives, and helped lead protests to desegregate in public elementary schools, parks and mississippi gold coast beaches.
A ku klux klansman, byron de la beckwith, was arrested for evers’s murder, but was released after all-white juries deadlocked twice on his guilt. three decades later, justice was finally served when de la beckwith was found guilty of evers’s murder and sent to prison at age 70.
a lasting legacy
evers was buried with full military honors in front of more than 3,000 people at arlington national cemetery. His murder and the failure to convict de la Beckwith inspired a number of songs by popular musicians, including Bob Dylan’s “Just A Pawn In His Game” and “Too Many Martyrs” and “Another Country”. by phil ochs the 1996 film ghosts of mississippi starring alec baldwin and whoopi goldberg depicts the 1994 trial of de la beckwith for the murder of evers.
The Evers family also carried on his legacy. Both his wife, Myrlie Evers-Williams, and his brother, Charles, became prominent civil rights activists, and Myrlie served as NAACP President from 1995 to 1998.