As remembered by Hunter Bear (John
June 16, 2011
Medgar Wiley Evers, 1925-1963, Mississippi Field Secretary of the NAACP, was shot from ambush on the night of June 11, 1963 during the climactic period of the Jackson Movement of 1962-63 — and died shortly after midnight, June 12. His assailant, Byron De La Beckwith, was eventually convicted of the murder in 1994 and died in Mississippi State Penitentiary.
I knew Medgar Evers very well from 1961 to his death. I was the Advisor to the Jackson Youth Council of the NAACP, a member of the board of directors of the Mississippi NAACP, and chairman of the strategy committee of the Jackson Movement. I worked with Medgar closely. And I always had tremendous respect for him.
When I first came into Mississippi, in 1961, it was a lonely place for a civil rights worker — and it must have been even lonelier back in 1954 when Medgar went to work full-time for the NAACP. No one really gave a damn about Mississippi — it was the tail end of the world. In 1961 and 1962, there was only a handful of civil rights activists in the state. Medgar belonged to that early era.
He wasn't really an organizer; was sort of a lone wolf who traveled lonely and mighty dangerous trails. He kept the few dissidents that existed in the state together in little groups that did as much as they felt they could do; persuaded people to attach their names to pioneer civil rights lawsuits etc; investigated and tried to publicize the many atrocities which occurred each week. And, on orders from the National Office, he sold NAACP membership cards.
Cliche it may be, but he was, simply and in every sense of the word, a hell of a brave pioneer deep in the wilderness. His death ended one era in Mississippi, and began another; he had hardly been buried in faraway Arlington cemetery when dozens, and then hundreds, of activists began to pour into Mississippi from all over. And then, thank God, the wilderness began to recede.
See my full piece on Medgar: Medgar Evers: Reflection and Appreciation