The Murder of Medgar Evers - Civil Rights Cases

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of murdering Evers in 1994, 30 years after the fact

by Borgna Brunner

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On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers, 37, civil rights activist and field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi, was shot in the back while walking up to his house. His two small children witnessed his murder. In his arms were a pile of tee-shirts that said, "Jim Crow Must Go." The gun that killed Evers was found with fingerprints, and the suspect, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, was swiftly arrested. Beckwith was tried twice in 1964, and in both trials the all-white juries remained deadlocked.

After his release, Beckwith was reported to have bragged about the murder at a Klan rally. His life thereafter reveals a man clearly unbowed (in 1967, Beckwith ran for lieutenant governor of Mississippi, placing fifth among the six candidates) and entrenched in violence (in 1973, he was sentenced to a five-year prison term for possession of dynamite).

In 1990, a series of investigative reports in Jackson's Clarion-Ledger, a committed prosecutor, and the indefatigability of Evers's widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, produced new evidence. The case was reopened, and four years later, Beckwith was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He died in Jan. 2001 at age 90.

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