The Life & Legacy of Medgar Evers

The Life & Legacy of Medgar Evers

This Wednesday marks 50 years since civil rights activist Medgar Evers was gunned down in his own driveway in Jackson Mississippi. He was 37 years old (the same age I am now), yet he achieved so much in his short life on earth.

Medgar was initially a WWII veteran (fighting on the battle of Normandy, though the military was still segregated), and once he was honorably discharged in 1946, he completed his college education at Alcorn State University and was on the ground floor of the civil right movement becoming first field secretary for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), he was also involved in the RCNL (regional Council of Negro Leadership), and their boycott of gas stations because of the denial the use of their bathrooms to blacks.

But Medgar’s legacy is helping segregate the University of Mississippi and he had personal experience with the school when they rejected his appilcation to attend law school there in 1954. He used the case of Brown vs he Board of Education (347 US 483), that education segregation was unconstitutional. His hard work was paid off in 1962 when James Meredith was accepted to the University of Mississippi.

Medgar also worked on the public investigation of the murder of Emmett Till (who was from Chicago), who was tortured and murdered in August of 1955.

However Medgar suffered threats and attempts on his life as a result of his civil rights work, in the weeks leading up to his death, a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto his carport and he was also nearly run down by a car outside of the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP office. Still, he worked on the civil rights movement including giving a short televised speech the week prior to his death.

Medgar was buried at Arlington National Cemetery and received full military honors in a crowd of more than 3,000 people. But Medgar’s name carries on as in 1970 Medgar Evers College was named for him in Brooklyn, New York as part of the City University of New York.

Medgar’s killer, Byron De La Beckwith, twice had deadlocked juries in Medgar’s murder trial but was finally brought to justice in 1994 with new evidence and was convicted of Medgar’s murder, he died in prison in 2001. As part of the trial Medgar’s body was exhumed for a new autopsy and once the trial was done, Medgar was given a new funeral.

Also Medgar’s wife Myrlie continued his civil rights work as well as his brother Charles.

Medgar’s name also lives on in Jackson-Evers International Airport (JAN), which was renamed in his honor by the Jackson city council in December 2004 and formally renamed on January 22, 2005. Also Medgar received the honor of having a US Navy Cargo ship being named in his honor, the USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13), was formally named for Medgar in 2009 and launched in late 2011 and sponsored by his widow Myrlie.

As a man of color I feel indebted to Medgar for his hard work in desegregating education for I was able to attend my school of choice and pursue my dreams because of his sacrifices. For many of us his legacy will not be forgotten.

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