Civil Rights

45 Years After Medgar Evers' Murder, His Work Continues

Every year, on June 12, Robert Stepney thinks about Medgar Evers, a college roommate who was like a brother to him.

Shot on that day in Jackson, Miss., in 1963, as he got out of his car in front of his home a little after midnight, Evers died in front of his wife. Even though the NAACP field agent’s life was cut short at 37, before he could accomplish all that he intended to do, he has been a catalyst in the civil rights movement before and after his death. Stepney, for instance, believes Evers is one reason why Barack Obama is now running to be president of the United States, reports the SunHerald.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of murdering Evers, because of apparent racism among authorities and juries and help from others who agreed with his segregationist views. He died in 2001, while serving a prison sentence, the New York Times noted in his obituary.

After serving in World War II, Evers returned home to the segregated South. He applied to the University of Mississippi Law School but was denied admission. As a civil rights worker, he fought to get the state’s schools and beaches desegregated, and saw voter registration as a key tactic in combating racial discrimination.

If he were alive today, he would be 83 years old. He would be pleased with the progress made on the civil rights front, but concerned about current issues, says his older brother, Charles Evers. “We have the highest number of black registered voters. The highest number of black elected officials in the nation,” he tells the Clarion-Ledger. “That’s what Medgar did. Or helped to do.”

As Medgar Evers is credited with saying, “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”

Additional coverage:

NewsHour (PBS): “The Medgar Evers Assassination”

NPR (June 10, 2003): “The Legacy of Medgar Evers”

WLBT (NBC): “King Performs at Annual Evers Homecoming Event”

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