Belated Justice for Medgar Evers

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On this day in 1994 Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers over thirty years after death. Evers, born on July 2, 1925, had served in the Army during World War II, then received his BA from Acorn College in 1952. Living in Mississippi, he became involved with the Civil Rights Movement through his boss at an insurance company who was also involved. By 1954, he had become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s field secretary for Mississippi, where his work included organizing boycott campaigns, working toward the desegregation of the University of Mississippi, and investigating the lynching murder of Emmett Till. As a leading voice in his area, he was targeted prior to his assasination, including a molotov cocktail being thrown into his home in 1963 and being nearly run over by a car only five days before his death. On June 12, 1963 De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizen’s Council and Klu Klux Klan, shot Evers in the back when he was walking from his driveway to his house, having just returned from a meeting. He died in a hospital an hour later, the same day that Kennedy gave a speech in support of civil rights on national television. More than a year later, on June 23, 1964, De La Beckwith was arrested for Evers’ murder. Two trials followed his arrest, both ending in mistrials because of deadlocked all-white juries. As a result, De La Beckwith remained a free man until he was convicted of conspiracy to committ murder (for a seperate case) in 1975. He served three years and was released. In 1994 a new trial was mounted against De La Beckwith for the Evers’ case, contingent on new evidence of him having boasted of the murder during Klan rallies. This led to a conviction February 5 for first-degree murder and,after failed appeals, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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