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- TUSLOG Detachment 150
Medgar Evers is one of the giants of the civil rights movement, but many did not know who he was until they saw the Whoopi Goldberg movie, "Ghosts of Mississippi." Medgar is one of those people like Elvis or Madonna or the Pope who needs no last name--he's that well known across all kinds of people. But WHO was Medgar Evers? Probably the one person in early 1960s-Mississippi who posed the most danger to that old friend of racism, Jim Crow.
Medgar was a veteran of World War II who served in Normandy and then returned to post-war Mississippi where he attended college and married Myrlie Evers. Armed with his new degree from Alcorn College, he became the neighborhood insurance salesman in Clarksdale, Mississippi for the African-American-owned Magnolia Mutual Insurance Company.
While selling policies in Crackled for the insurance company, Medgar became not only aware of, but shocked, at the abject poverty confronting the African-American community. When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was looking for someone in late 1954 to fill their new Mississippi Field Secretary position, Medgar seized the opportunity and ran with it. He recruited new NAACP members, participated in lawsuits to desegregate elementary schools and investigated racial incidents and killings.
At this point, by the summer of 1963, Medgar had earned a target on his back from the rabid segregationists determined to stop his work. On the evening of June 11, 1963, Medgar came home from an NAACP meeting and pulled into his driveway. As Medgar walked beside his car, closing the door as he moved, Byron de la Beckwith, a racist, hiding behind shrubbery, found his target in a deer rifle scope and killed Medgar with a single shot. Medgar fell to the ground, with his house keys in his hands and a handful of "Jim Crow Must Go" shirts strewn around him. His family raced out of the house to aid him, but it was too late. Medgar's injuries were massive and he died from them later that night.
Medgar was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His grave is one of the few national notables listed in the visitor's guide provided by the cemetery.
On the grounds of the Jackson, Mississippi Public Library, a few blocks from his home, stands a statue to Medgar. As I took this picture I noticed the calm look on his face and thought, "He did the right thing and they took him out, but Medgar still won in the end."
A few blocks from his statue is Medgar's old neighborhood. As I entered the area on Missouri Road, one of those brown "historical" site signs on the side of the road proclaimed this was the "Medgar Evers Historical Neighborhood" . Going down the street a half a block, I turned left onto the old Guynes Street, now renamed Margaret Walker Alexander Drive. As the car turned, # 2332, Medgar's old house, appeared on left side. When I realized I was driving in Medgar's last tracks, an eerie feeling came over me. Starting a three-point turn, I maneuvered the car to the left into the driveway's apron. As I spun around in my seat to check the rear clearance, I looked out the car's back window, only to see the brushy area where the cowardly Byron de la Beckwith had knelt in hiding to kill Medgar. The thought, "you son of a b----", ran through my mind as I backed the car. Beckwith may have taken Medgar's life, but he couldn't take his ideals. That feeling swept the temporary anger from me as I left the area.
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