From Mississippi, Medgar Evers, born July 2, 1925 was assassinated on June 12, 1963. After returning from military service in World War II he became very active in the African American civil rights movement.
In 1948 Evers enrolled at Alcorn College (a historically black college, now Alcorn State University) majoring in business administration. He also competed on the debate, football, and track teams, sang in the choir, and was junior class president. He earned his BA in 1952. Evers applied to the then-segregated University of Mississippi Law School in 1954 but his application was rejected.
Evers’ civil rights leadership and investigative work made him a target of white supremacists. In the weeks leading up to his death, the hostility directed towards him grew. His public investigations into the murder of Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard had made him a prominent black leader.
Mourned nationally, Evers was buried on June 19th in Arlington National Cemetary with full military honors before a crowd of thousands.
On June 21, 1963, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and member of the White Citizens’ Council (and later of the Ku Klux Klan), was arrested for Evers’ murder. Juries composed solely of white men twice that year deadlocked on De La Beckwith’s guilt.
In 1994, 30 years after the two previous trials had failed to reach a verdict, De La Beckwith was brought to trial based on new evidence. During the trial, the body of Evers was exhumed from his grave for autopsy. De La Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived as a free man for much of the three decades following the killing (he was imprisoned from 1977 to 1980 for conspiring to murder A. I. Botnick). De La Beckwith appealed unsuccessfully, and died at age 80 in prison in January 2001.
R.I.P. Medgar Evers on the 50th anniversary of his murder.