Friday, October 9, 2009

Navy to honor civil rights martyr Medgar Evers

In the driveway outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot to death by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963. His murderer was not convicted until 1994.

From Breaking News 24/7

WASHINGTON — Slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers will be honored Friday with a Navy supply ship named for him.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, planned to announce the honor during a speech at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. The nearly 700-foot-long vessel named for Evers will deliver food, ammunition and parts to other ships at sea.

During the civil rights movement Evers organized nonviolent protests, voter registration drives and boycotts in Mississippi, rising to the post of national field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1963 Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his home in Jackson after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. His death prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill.

Evers was born in Decatur, Miss., in 1925 and served in the Army during World War II. He returned to Mississippi, earned a degree from Alcorn College in 1952 and became active in the NAACP and its civil rights work in his home state.

Thirty-seven when he was shot to death by a white supremacist, Evers was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was not convicted until 1994.

While writing Where Rebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited, I had the honor and privilege of reading, researching and learning more about Medgar Evers. In the Delta and throughout Mississippi and the world, this early modern civil rights leader is remembered and loved. From talking to others, I learned that ..

MEDGAR EVERS was sixteen and a sophomore when World War I broke out. Within a year, he quit school and joined his brother Charles Evers in the U.S. Army. Medgar Evers was attached to a segregated battalion that served in England and after the Normandy invasion, in France.

The experience of travel opened up the world to him; the opportunity to leave the South provided an adventure he could not forget. In France, he found “a whole people – all of them white – who apparently saw no difference in a man simply because of his skin color, and this was perhaps the greatest revelation of all,” he once told his wife, Myrlie, recalled in her autobiography.

While Evers grew up in Decatur Mississippi, outside of the Delta, he would spend his first several years out of college in Mound Bayou of Bolivar County, working with Amzie Moore and Dr. T.R.M.Howard organizing NAACP chapters and investigating murders, and working also selling insurance.

Evers quickly came to know Aaron Henry and the three men began lifelong journeys to change Mississippi. All returning black veterans – Moore, Henry and Evers – faced the Delta’s familiar extremes, both old and new.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, his wife, wrote a beautiful book about Medgar and the times in which they lived, For Us, The Living. You can also read more about Evers at this Clarion-Ledger link.(sk)

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