The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 11, 2013

Widow works to preserve Evers' civil-rights legacy

(Continued)

Myrlie Beasley and Medgar Evers met as students in 1950 at Alcorn College, a historically black school in rural southwest Mississippi. He was from Decatur, Miss., and served in the Army during World War II before becoming a star football player for the school. Nearly eight years his junior, she was a talented pianist raised by a protective grandmother in Vicksburg. The couple married in 1951.

In 1954, Evers applied to the all-white University of Mississippi Law School. After he was rejected, he sought the NAACP's help to file a lawsuit. Instead, the organization hired him to coordinate its work in stubbornly segregationist Mississippi.

Evers spent years investigating violence against black people, including the 1955 killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till. He helped James Meredith gain admission as the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962. Evers pushed for black voter registration, drew young people into the civil rights movement and, in the final months of his life, led a boycott of white-owned businesses in downtown Jackson.

Two weeks before his death, Evers helped coordinate a sit-in at an all-white lunch counter. That night, someone tossed a firebomb at his house. It was extinguished, but the warning clear.

Evers-Williams recalled that the night before her husband was slain, she sat with him on their couch and talked about the danger. He made her promise that if anything happened to him, she would take care of their three young children. She also vowed that if he were killed, she would seek justice and keep his memory alive.

The night he was killed, Medgar Evers stayed out late, attending a community meeting. Shortly after midnight on June 12, 1963, he arrived home. His wife and children were still awake after watching a televised speech on civil rights by President John F. Kennedy.

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