By Mike Espy
I wanted to take a moment today to honor Medgar Evers, one of Mississippi’s fiercest champions of justice. He was assassinated in his driveway 57 years ago today by a white supremacist.
Medgar Evers was the Mississippi NAACP State Conference’s first field secretary. In this position, Medgar traveled across the state to local NAACP branches helping to fight against racial discrimination and injustice because of Jim Crow laws in Mississippi. He investigated lynchings, recorded hate crimes, and recruited Mississippians to the NAACP. This was an extremely dangerous job to have at the time, but Medgar persisted.
Medgar was mentored by T.R.M Howard who was president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership in (RCNL) in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Here Medgar was trained in activism, and as an insurance salesman he was able to travel across the state and witness the injustice taking place against Black Mississippians.
Medgar helped to plan and execute many boycotts against white merchants who discriminated against black patrons and was influential in James Meredith’s integration of the University of Mississippi. Medgar Evers himself tried to integrate the University of Mississippi Law school in 1954, but was shut out.
Evers was a supporter of student activism and assisted in student-led sit-ins across the state and the City of Jackson where his office is located. His office is still used today by the current Executive Director of the Mississippi NAACP State Conference.
Medgar, a war veteran, was married to his college classmate Myrlie Beasley, and the two married on December 24, 1951 and had three children. Myrlie Evers-Williams is a civil rights icon in her own right, and I am deeply grateful to call her a friend.
Medgar Evers is a true Mississippi hero. We still feel his loss today, but his legacy lives on in all of us fighting for a new Mississippi.