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State and Nation

June 11, 2013

Widow works to preserve Evers' civil-rights legacy

— JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Myrlie Evers-Williams acknowledges it would be easy to remain mired in bitterness and anger, 50 years after a sniper's bullet made her a widow.

Instead, she's determined to celebrate the legacy of her first husband, Medgar Evers — a civil rights figure often overshadowed by peers such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Events including a black-tie gala are being held this week to remember Evers, the first Mississippi field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was 37 when he was assassinated on June 12, 1963.

"We are cursed as human beings with this element that's called hatred, prejudice and racism," said Evers-Williams, now 80. "But it is my belief that, as it was Medgar's, that there is something good and decent in each and every one of us, and we have to call on that, and we have to find a way to work together."

Evers-Willliams, who moved back to Mississippi in 2012, is treated with reverence by strangers who recognize her these days. She recently went to downtown Jackson's King Edward Hotel to meet reporters from The Associated Press for an interview — a hotel, she notes, that was off limits to black people decades ago. As she waited for her coffee, a white man approached to shake her hand and ask if she'd pose for a photo.

"I've always wanted to meet you," said Ron Walker, former mayor of the tiny town of Taylorsville.

Evers-Williams smiled cautiously, then beamed, as Walker said he believes she and Medgar Evers had made Mississippi a better, more open society.

Evers-Williams gave the invocation at President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, and met with the president June 5 at the White House. A ceremony of remembrance was held June 6 at Evers' gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, attended by former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder.

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