Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi who was murdered by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Evers was also the president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), a civil rights and pro self-help organization. Involvement in the RCNL gave Evers crucial training in activism. He helped to organize the RCNL's boycott of service stations that denied blacks use of their restrooms. The boycotters distributed bumper stickers with the slogan "Don't Buy Gas Where You Can't Use the Restroom." Along with his brother, Charles Evers, he also attended the RCNL's annual conferences in Mound Bayou between 1952 and 1954 which drew crowds of ten thousand or more.
Evers applied to the then-segregated University of Mississippi Law School in February 1954. When his application was rejected, Evers became the focus of a NAACP campaign to desegregate the school, a case aided by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 that segregation was unconstitutional.
NAACP Field Secretary
He was involved in a boycott campaign against white merchants and was instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi when that institution was finally forced to enroll James Meredith in 1962.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Evers found himself the target of a number of threats. His public investigations into the murder of Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard made him a prominent black leader and therefore vulnerable to attack. On May 28, 1963, a molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home. Five days before his death, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he emerged from the Jackson NAACP office. Civil rights demonstrations accelerated in Jackson during the first week of June 1963. A local television station granted Evers time for a short speech, his first in Mississippi, where he outlined the goals of the Jackson movement. Following the speech, threats on Evers' life increased.
On June 12, 1963, Evers pulled into his driveway after just returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP T-shirts that read "Jim Crow Must Go," Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from an Enfield 1917.303 rifle that ricocheted into his home. He staggered 30 feet before collapsing. He died at a local hospital 50 minutes later. Evers was murdered just hours after President John F. Kennedy's speech on national television in support of civil rights.
Portrait of Medgar Evers
Murder In Mississippi: The Assassination of Medgar Evers
The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches by Myrlie Evers-Williams (Author), Manning Marable (Author)
Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers by Adam Nossiter
The Ghosts of Medgar Evers: A Tale of Race, Murder, Mississippi, and Hollywood by Willie Morris
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)-DVD