A Shot That Ricocheted Through HistoryMedgar Evers was a man who was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in. He believed that one-day blacks and whites would be able to associate with each other without racial interference. He would later die for what he believed and leave an example for all who was following in his path. The man believed to have shot him was tried three times and finally convicted in the third trial nearly thirty years after his death. Evers was seen as a martyr for all black to look up to.
As civil rights began to gain attention of the United States, blacks decided they needed to change their approach from court cases to a more nonviolent approach. On August 28, 1963, the movement reached its strongest points. They made a march at Washington D. C., and wanted to federal civil rights legislation to give them equal rights. This is where Martin Luther King gave his famous I Have A Dream speech. King believed that most whites were basically decent and when faced by love would allow injustice and brutality to continue. (Jordan) The nonviolent approach would prove to be a better approach for them in later times.
When blacks began charging their approach, they began preferring sit-ins. This all started at a public lunch counter at F. W. Woolsworths in Greensboro, North Carolina and began to spread to all public land counties across the south. As sit-ins became more common, they moved to other public places such as parks, movie theatres, swimming pools, libraries, lobbies, and many other segregated facilities. After several months of sit-ins, they began to become desegregated. Blacks also began a strong movement to get public schools desegregated as well. They finally succeeded with Ole Miss, when they accepted James Meredith into the school. President Kennedy also tried to help blacks by approaching the problem with caution. He did this by encouraging company with government contracts to hire black Americans.
On July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Ms, a black man by the name of Medgar Wiley Evers was born. Until he joined the Army in 1943, he attended school in Decatur. He served Normandy and to Alcorn to pursue his college education in which he majored in business administration. While there, he participated in many school functions, and also met his future wife Myrtle Beasley. They married the next year on December 24, 1951. After finishing college with a BA he moved to Mound Bayou, and established the local chapter of the NAACP. He was an insurance salesman until the Supreme Court case of Brown vs. the Board of Education said that schools could no longer be segregated. When this decision did not stop him from trying to integrate the school, when in 1962 they helped James Meredith get enrolled there. Earlier in 1954, Evers was appointed to NAACP field secretary and moved to Jackson. Evers, despite of danger of being the leader of the NAACP, pursued to civil rights movement actively. Evers once said, If I die, it will be in a good course. Ive been fighting for America just as much as soldiers in Vietnam. Im determined that we will be accepted human beings with dignity.
With being the leader of the NAACP, many white Americans did not like him, and when he helped James Meredith get into Ole Miss, he sparked a fire that would not go away until June 12, 1963, when he was murdered outside his home, and the murderer would not see justice until 1994, over thirty years after his death.
Beckwith was born on November 9, 1920, in Sacramento, California. His mother had mental problems and his father was an alcoholic. He was later orphaned and raised by a cousin in Greenwood. Beckwith did below average in school, and the only thing he really enjoyed was guns. He later graduated from Columbia Military Academy in Mississippi. He worked at a laundry mat until World War II broke out; he quickly enlisted in the marines and was sent off to battle in Tarawa. While fighting, he was shot and fell into the water. He returned to Greenwood where he failed to pass the officers training school qualifying exam in 1965. Beckwith married Mary Louise Williams, better known as Willie, a year before he left the service. They later had a son named Bryant (Pitock). Byron was just a man with troubled past, trying to find where he fit in.
Byron was a troubled man coming back from WWII and it was hard for him to fit back in with society. His nephew, Reed Massengill, once said, For a guy coming back after WW II into impoverished Mississippi, there was very little in this world that he could feel superior to. Blacks were all the people he could look down on. People said that even in the racist society, Beckwith was considered an extremist. (Pitock) the racist issue with Beckwith turned personal when Medgar Evers Helped get James Meredith admitted into Ole Miss. (Silver) Beckwith was just an extremist and took his views just a little too far.
2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Dr. School was out, so Myrlic Evers, Medgar Evers wife, told the kids they could stay up and wait for their father. He later drove up, and the kids were excited because he was home. At that time, Evers stepped out of his car holding a stack of Jim Crow Must Go t-shirts. While hiding in a dense honey suckle bush,, Beckwith took aim at Evers. The shot thrust him face first into the concrete, where his wide and kids saw him. (Loewen) A columnist for the Clarion Ledger was continuously saying that it must have been a paid assassin to make Evers sacrifices so that they could keep the fear and turmoil around the south. (Silver) Medgar Evers was killed in cold blood because he was trying to fight for what was right.
The first and second trials were very similar and different in many ways. Both juries were all white males; women were not allowed to serve in the jury at this time. In the first trial, the jury was picked out fairly, but both attorneys began to pick out the ones they wanted. In the second trail, they were beginning to start selecting; to sovereignty commission began to run background check on all twelve jurors. This is usually expensive, but luckily for Beckwith, they offered to do it free. They would run twelve checks to figure out whether he was a segregationist or not. When this caught the public eye, the sovereignty commission replied that it was only unethical, not illegal. Another thing that was different was that, some of the twelve witnesses testimonies changed due to being threatened or beaten. Even though the trials were different in many ways, the jurors came up with the same verdict.
The third trial was different from all twelve others, in several ways. This jury of this trial was made up of mostly blacks. In addition, many of the twelve witnesses of the first trials were told to fully recall what had happened. Bobby DeLaughter, the prosecutor attorney for Medgar Evers, presented new evidence to the court. DeLaughter was able to get his hands on the murder weapon. His father-in-law, Judge Russell Moore, was to judge during two of the other trials. He had found twelve riffles and held on to it until the trial. DeLaughter recovered the rifle from him and proved to be useful in the third trial. This proved successful because the fingerprints on the scope of the Enfield 10-06 were later proved to be so Beckwiths fingerprints. This directly placed Beckwith with the murder weapon (DeLaughter). Every body, when dug up, was in perfect condition if they had been embalmed the day before. This gave forensic examiners the chance to make another autopsy. This autopsy provided that Evers was shot by a, 30-06 bullet because of the star burst pattern in the bone which is a common pattern for this type of bullet (Vollers). There were several new witnesses that DeLaughter managed to come up with. Mary Ann Adams was a forty-seven year old IRS employee who met Beckwith when she met a man from a work at a restaurant who knew two men sitting with Beckwith and said hey. Ray introduced Evers and he sat shaking his head and smiling, saying, Thats right (DeLaughter). The next person was Delmar Dennis who was an FBI agent working undercover in the KKK in Mississippi investigating the murder of these cruel rights workers in Noshoba County. He saw Beckwith openly talking about the killing of Evers. He could not come forth with this evidence without blowing his cover in the other investigation (DeLaughter). Another was Mark Reiley; a thirty-six year old air traffic controller in Chicago was a guard at Arcola State Penitentiary who had recognized Beckwiths face on T.V. and called in. While he worked at the penitentiary he and beckwith developed a close relationship. This is when Beckwith began to brag about the killing of Evers. Beckwith tried to instill his beliefs with the young guard (DeLaughter) With all the news evidence in DeLaughter favor, it would turn out to be a win for Evers.
Mississippis white supremacy had been getting more violent as more time passed. The KKK was revived to help stop the blacks from pressing forward with civil rights. They used to stand outside voting stations to stop blacks from voting. They dressed in white robes to resemble dead confederate soldiers that were fighting for the south in the civil war. The KKK did not like anyone that was not white Christian. (Vollers) Mississippi during this time was a very grim place to live that was full of hatred.
The legacy of Evers is everywhere present today. This peaceful man, who had constantly urged that violence is not the way ,but paid for his beliefs with his life, was a prominent voice of struggle for civil rights in Mississippi. Many people, including his wife paid tribute to him into years past. His wife wrote a book called For Us, The Living, but the best is said to be, Mississippi, Black History Makers. Ten years after his death it was recorded that there had been one hundred and forty five black officials elected to office in Mississippi, and that there was a black student in each of the states private schools. In 1970, the Department of Health, Education, and welfare said that twenty-six percent of black people in the Mississippi public schools system with at least fifty percent white enrollment. In 1913, there were only twenty eight thousand blacks registered voters, and by 1971 there were two hundred and fifty thousand. Even in 1982, there were five hundred thousand. (JDP) Though the hard work and struggle of one man was ended with death, the changed be brought about are still evident today. This has only made Mississippi a better and more peaceful place to live for all races.