Medgar Evers

July 1925 - June 1963

The son of farmer and sawmill laborer James Evers and his wife Jesse Wright Evers, Medgar Evers attended segregated schools and then served in the U.S. Army during World War II (1943-1945). 

From 1948-1952, he attended Alcorn A & M College (now Alcorn State University) and earned a BA degree. In 1951, he married fellow Alcornite Myrlie Beasley and they had three children together. After moving to all-black Mound Bayou, Mississippi with his family, Evers became an insurance salesman and helped organize a boycott of service stations that denied African Americans bathroom privileges. In 1954, he applied for admission to the University of Mississippi Law School but was denied entrance on racial grounds, despite the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court desegregation decision.

That same year, Evers became NAACP field secretary for the state and moved to Jackson to continue his civil rights activities. The response was frightening: a bomb was thrown into his home’s carport and another time a speeding car nearly ran him over. After midnight on June 12, 1963, when he returned home from a meeting, he was ambushed. Shot in the back, he crawled to his front door where his wife and children found him. His wife and neighbors took him to a nearby white hospital where he became the first black man admitted. He died soon after his arrival.

Evers was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery with thousands in attendance. The murderer, Byron De La Beckwith, was found not-guilty in two trials in 1964 by
all-white juries but was convicted in 1994 by an integrated jury. He died in prison in 2001. Evers legacy has grown over the years. The Jackson airport is named after him, a college in Brooklyn bears his name, and his wife Myrlie has become an important Civil rights activist in her own right. His philosophy and impact are best expressed by his saying: “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”

Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable. The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches. New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005.