Medgar Wiley Evers

Chest up portrait of Medgar Evers in suit and tie smiling in front of drapery

Courtesy of the Archives and Records Services Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Medgar Wiley Evers was the first Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He devoted, and ultimately sacrificed, his life to the cause of human rights. He witnessed atrocities, both large and small, against black people in the segregrated South. These slights to human dignity inspired his mission to lead the struggle for equality within his home state.

Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi on July 2, 1925, the third of four children. James and Jesse Evers wanted their children to have an education, and Medgar attended a one-room segregated school in Decatur and later attended the black high school in Newton. He left school and joined the United States Army in 1943, serving in segregated units in England, Belgium and France. According to Myrlie Evers-Williams, his wife:

The opportunity to leave the South and see new parts of the world provided an adventure he could not forget. In France, he found 'a whole people—all of them white—who apparently saw no difference in a man because of the color of his skin, and this was perhaps the greatest revelation of all.

After his discharge, he completed high school at the Alcorn College laboratory school and later enrolled at historically black Alcorn A&M University (now Alcorn State University). Evers excelled at sports and debate, was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper and annual, served as president of his junior class, and was named to Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities. He gained interest in activism around voter disenfranchisement. Medgar met classmate Myrlie Beasley, a Vicksburg native, and they married on Christmas Eve 1951.

After graduating from Alcorn A&M, Evers took a job as a salesman for the Magnolia Mutual Insurance Company in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Evers travelled extensively throughout the Mississippi Delta where poverty and illiteracy were endemic. Evers was distressed by the widespread poverty and attended mass meetings organized by Magnolia Mutual's founder, Dr. T. R. M. Howard. He also began organizing chapters of the NAACP to address conditions suffered by African Americans in the Delta.

After the Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v the Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Evers applied to the law school at the University of Mississippi. He was denied, but his effort to integrate the state’s oldest public university impressed the NAACP. (Evers later proved instrumental in assisting James Meredith with enrollment in 1962, officially desegregating Ole Miss.)

In January 1955, Evers moved to Jackson and became the Mississippi Field Secretary for the NAACP, the first salaried staff position in the state. He travelled throughout the state encouraging people to register to vote. He investigated and documented cases of discrimination and violence against blacks. Evers worked with other civil rights organizations, and encouraged younger activists’ involvement in local youth councils across the state.

Through press releases, interviews, and speeches, he brought news of the struggle in Mississippi to people nationwide. His very public leadership made him a target of threats and harassment. Upon returning home from a meeting, Evers was shot and killed by a white supremacist.

The assassination of Medgar Evers in the driveway of his carport in June 1963 was the first such murder of a national civil rights leader. The killing shook the nation, and helped push forward legislation like the Civil Rights Bill of 1964.

Former Sgt. Medgar Wiley Evers is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Further reading

U.S. Army article: Army veteran Medgar Wiley Evers a foot Soldier in struggle for justice

Medgar Evers College: Life of Medgar Evers

Last updated: November 29, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1425 Lelia Dr
Ste A
Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument

Jackson, MS 39216



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