On this day, June 12th, the African-American community lost one the most ardent and brave defenders of civil rights the United States had ever seen when Medgar Evers was shot dead in his driveway by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith in 1963.
Evers fought white supremacy head on throughout his adult life until the time of his death. The World War II veteran served in the United States Army and participated in the Normandy invasion that eventually freed France from Nazi occupation.
As a field worker for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Evers traveled throughout the state of Mississippi encouraging black folks to get out and vote. This was a very dangerous overture, and Medgar undoubtedly knew the risks.
As Barack Obama becomes the first African American U.S. president, CBS News’ Harold Dow highlights the life of Medgar Evers, a black civil rights activist who was assassinated in the 1960s.
He was key in getting witnesses and evidence in the Emmitt Till murder case, which removed the fog of mainstream ambiguity to the vicious racism of the American south.
Here’s an interesting form of murder we came up with: assassination. You know what’s interesting about assassination? Well, not only does it change those popularity polls in a big fucking hurry, but it’s also interesting to notice who it is we assassinate. Did you ever notice who it is? Stop to think who it is we kill? It’s always people who’ve told us to live together in harmony and try to love one another. Jesus, Gandhi, Lincoln, John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, John Lennon, they all said, “Try to live together peacefully.” BAM! Right in the fucking head. Apparently, we’re not ready for that.-–George Carlin
Evers’ funeral was held in Jackson, Mississippi and he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetary in Virginia. His murder was condemned by President John F. Kennedy, who was killed just five months later in November.
The first trial to convict De La Beckwith ended in a deadlocked, all-white jury. A second trial came to the same conclusion and the murderer was set free.
Three decades later, the state of Mississippi reopened the case under pressure from civil rights leaders and Evers family.
In February 1994, a racially mixed jury in Jackson found Beckwith guilty of murder. He was unrepentant until the end.