Biography of Medgar Evers

Portrait Of Medgar Evers
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

In 1963, just two months before the March on Washington, civil rights activist Medgar Evers Wiley was shot in front of his home. Throughout the early Civil Rights Movement, Evers worked in Mississippi organizing protests and establishing local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Early Life and Education

Medgar Wiley Evers was born on July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Miss.

His parents, James and Jesse, were farmers and worked at a local sawmill.

Throughout Evers formal education, he walked twelve miles to school. Following his graduation from high school, Evers enlisted in the Army, serving for two years in World War II.

In 1948, Evers majored in business administration at Alcorn State University. While a student, Evers participated in a variety of activities including debate, football, track, choir and served as junior class president. In 1952, Evers graduated and became a salesperson for Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Civil Rights Activism

While working as a salesman for the Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company, Evers became involved in local civil rights activism. Evers began by organizing the Regional Council of Negro Leadership's (RCNL) boycott of gas filling stations which would not allow African-American patrons to use its bathrooms. For the next two years, Evers worked with RCNL by attending its annual conferences and organizing boycotts and other events on a local level.

In 1954, Evers applied to the segregated University of Mississippi's Law School. Ever's application was rejected and as a result, Evers submitted his application to the NAACP as a test case.

That same year, Evers became the organization's first field secretary of Mississippi. Evers established local chapters throughout Mississippi and was instrumental in organizing and leading several local boycotts.

Evers work—investigating the murder of Emmett Till as well as supporting men such as Clyde Kennard helped him become a targeted African-American leader.

As a result of Evers' work, a bomb was tossed into the garage of his home in May of 1963. A month later, while walking out of the NAACP's Jackson office, Evers was almost run over by a car.

Marriage and Family

While studying at Alcorn State University, Evers met Myrlie Evers-Williams. The couple married in 1951 and had three children:  Darrell Kenyatta, Reena Denise and James Van Dyke.

Assassination

On June 12, 1963, Evers was shot in the back with a rifle. He died 50 minutes later. Evers was buried on June 19 in Arlington National Cemetery. More than 3000 attended his burial where he received full military honors.

Days later, Byron De La Beckwith was arrested and tried for murder. However, the jury reached a deadlock, and De La Beckwith was not found guilty. In 1994, however, De La Beckwith was retried after new evidence was found. That same year, De La Beckwith was convicted of murder and died in prison in 2001.

Legacy

The work of Evers has been honored in a variety of ways. Writers such as James Baldwin, Eudora Wetly, and Margaret Walker wrote about Evers' work and efforts.

The NAACP honored Evers' family with the Spingarn Medal.

And in 1969, Medgar Evers College was founded in Brooklyn, NY as part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system.

Famous Quotes

“You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”

“Our only hope is to control the vote.”

“If we don’t like what the Republicans do, we need to get in there and change it.” 

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Lewis, Femi. "Biography of Medgar Evers." ThoughtCo, Jun. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/medgar-evers-biography-45227. Lewis, Femi. (2017, June 12). Biography of Medgar Evers. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/medgar-evers-biography-45227 Lewis, Femi. "Biography of Medgar Evers." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/medgar-evers-biography-45227 (accessed November 23, 2017).