Medgar Evers: World War II Hero, Civil Rights Activist and NAACP Leader

Written by Tinaya Sallie

Medgar Evers was born on July 2nd, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He left high school at seventeen and enlisted in the United States Army, which was still segregated at the time, and eventually rose to the rank of Sergeant. During his stint in the U.S. military, he participated in the Normandy invasion in World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

He returned to his home state of Mississippi and attended Alcorn College, where he earned honors as one of the most successful students in the entire nation. While working as an insurance agent in Mound Bayou, he became part of a civil rights organization, the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL).

Evers accompanied James Meredith to the University of Mississippi on the fateful day of the infamous riot. Evers had applied to Ole Miss himself, but was denied entrance on a technicality. He did, however aid in the integration of the school.

As the the first NAACP field secretary in the South, Evers nearly doubled the organization’s membership in the state of Mississippi within 3 years to over 15,000. In 1955, he assisted in the investigation of the kidnapping and murder of a 14 year old boy named Emmett Till. Till was kidnapped, beaten and shot in the head by a group of white men after being accused of flirting with a white shopkeeper’s wife. He convinced witnesses to come forward and protected them during and after the trial.

For roughly nine years, Evers organized voter registration drives and led boycotts of segregated businesses in the state. His efforts earned him grave hostility from white supremacists and supporters. He had a Molotov cocktail thrown into his home and even had a car attempt to run him down just outside his NAACP office.

Evers was shot in the back in 1963, right outside of his home. He was returning home from a meeting at a local church when he was shot, and he died within one hour of the incident. He was 37 years old at the time. President Kennedy was also shot just 5 months later. 31 years passed before Evers’ murderer was finally brought to justice.

Evers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors in recognition of his wartime military service. Myrlie Evers-Williams, Evers’ widow, continued with her civil rights work up into the present. She also founded the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Mississippi.


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Tinaya Sallie

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