Medgar Evers, along with his brother Charles, was born in Decatur, Mississippi. During World War II, both Medgar and Charles served in the United States Army.
When Medgar and Charles returned home from overseas in 1946, they decided to register to vote. When they arrived at the courthouse, a man named Alton Graham used racial slurs to deter the men from registering. The two men were turned away several times but continued to pursue registration. The Evers’ recruited four other men to go and vote with them a second time in 1946. Charles Evers carried a .38 caliber pistol and a switchblade knife to defend himself.When the men got to the courthouse, there were several white men standing outside with shotguns waiting for them. The Evers’ party was denied entrance to the courthouse until Charles gave the man blocking the door a view of the gun in his pocket. After the men completed their ballots, they found that the ballot box had been moved to a room in the back of the courthouse, a room guarded by a dozen armed guards.Medgar decided the men should head home. Crowds of whites followed the Evers’ party down the street taunting them. The following county election, Medgar and Charles Evers became the first blacks to vote in Newton County in 1947.
In 1952, Evers completed a degree in business administration from Alcorn State University. Following his marriage to Myrlie Beasley, Medgar and Myrlie moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, where Medgar started work in insurance sales. In Mound Bayou, Evers organized a boycott with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) of local white gas stations that refused to serve black locals. Evers applied to the University of Mississippi’s law school in 1954 and was rejected. Evers, along with others from across the nation, became part of an NAACP movement for integration that culminated with Brown v. Board of Education.
Evers and his wife later moved to Jackson where they worked together to set up the state NAACP office, and he began investigating violent crimes committed against blacks and sought ways to prevent them. During his tenure as state field director of the NAACP, Evers’ boycott of Jackson merchants in the early 1960s attracted national attention, and his successful 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 an ensuing riot on campus left two people dead, and Evers’ involvement in this and other activities increased the hatred many people felt toward Evers.
On June 12, 1963, as he was returning home, Medgar Evers was killed by an assassin’s bullet. Black and white leaders from around the nation came to Jackson for his funeral and then gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for his interment. Following his death, his brother Charles took over Medgar’s position as state field secretary for the NAACP. The accused 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 in 1994, thirty-one years after Evers’ murder, Beckwith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The intersection of I-20 and Mississippi Hwy 15 in Newton County is now known as the Medgar Evers Memorial Interchange in his honor.
Videos referencing Medgar Evers:
These videos can also be viewed here.
Evers, Charles, and Halsell, Grace, ed. Evers. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1971.
Townsend, Daniel. What’s In A Name? March 9, 2005 http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/comments.php?id=P5417_0_9_0_C