May 8, 2008

The Murder of a Civil Rights Activist

Medgar Evers
In July of 1963 civil rights activist, Medgar Evers was shot in the back while exiting his car in the driveway of his Mississippi home. Ironically, his wife and children were inside watching President Kennedy's famous speech against segregation. Medgar staggered, bleeding to his front door as his wife and children ran out of the house trying to aid him. He died close to an hour later at an area hospital. 

Medgar's wife and children view his body.

Medgar was born on July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi. He enrolled at Alcorn State University in 1948 and married fellow student Myrlie Beasley in 1951. His increasing roll in fair treatment in the black community made him a target of death threats and violence. He was an active member of the RCNL (Regional Council of Negro Leadership) Medgar helped to organize boycotts against gas stations that wouldn't allow blacks to use their restrooms.

The night Medgar was shot a gun was found at the scene which was traced back to a man named Byron De La Beckwith, a man with known ties to the Ku Klux Klan and White supremacist organizations. Beckwith evaded justice twice when both court trails resulted in a hung jury. In 1994 Medgar's widow, Myrlie, helped to reopen the 30-year case and retry Beckwith. Bobby B. DeLaughter was the prosecutor and later wrote a book about the case entitled Never Too Late: A Prosecutor's Story of Justice in the Medgar Evers Case

Medgar's Casket after being exhumed 1991.
Medgar's body was exhumed in 1991. An autopsy was performed by Dr. Michael Baden. 
Dr. Baden commented in his book Dead Reckoning and on the HBO TV series Autopsy, that Medgar's body was in remarkably good condition. So good in fact, that Dr. Baden called Medgar's son to come view the body. Medgar's son was just a little boy when his father was murdered and barely remembered him. Dr. Baden set up the autopsy room like a funeral parlor and was able to reunite father and son. According to Baden, it was an incredibly touching and powerful moment. 

Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994. Beckwith appealed several times without success and died in prison on January 21, 2001.

A movie was made about Edgar's Murder entitled Ghosts of Mississippi directed by Rob Reiner. An excellent movie starring Whoopie Goldberg, as Myrlie Evers and Alec Baldwin as Bobby DeLaughter. 

For More Information:

Medgar Evers - Wikipedia

NAACP History - Medgar Evers

Find A Grave- Medgar Evers
Life Magazine - Behind The Picture: Medgar Evers Funeral

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