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Mississippi’s first Black mayor since reconstruction, James Charles Evers, was a pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement who helped register hundreds of Black voters. Evers dedicated his 97 years on earth to challenging the status quo and helping make Mississippi a better state.
Evers was born on September 11, 1922, in Decatur, Mississippi to a devout Christian family that embraced activism. He was the older brother of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, the Mississippi NAACP leader who was assassinated in 1963. Both of the Evers brothers served in the US Army during World War II.
After returning from war, Evers took an interest in Jomo Kenyatta and his use of the “mau-mau” movement for Kenyan liberation. He became an active member of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), which promoted self-help and business ownership in the Black community. He often spoke about voting rights at the RCNL annual conference.
He became the NAACP’s state voter registration chairman in 1954, and after the death of his brother, assumed his leadership responsibilities and began drives to register black voters. In 1966, Evers led a controversial boycott which the courts initially ruled as unlawful. This was later overturned by the Supreme Court in 1982 with the NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware case.
In 1969, Evers made history as the first Black mayor of Fayette. That same year, he was named “Man of the Year” by the NAACP. After serving as mayor for multiple terms, Evers continued his political pursuits. He ran for Governor of Mississippi, US House, and US Senate but was not elected.
Throughout his life, Evers also explored career options outside of activism. During his career, he ran several businesses in Chicago and Mississippi. One of which included being a concert promoter with blues icon, B.B King. He even tried broadcasting and became a radio disc jockey.
Ultimately, Evers used his humor and political skills to help advance the goals of the Civil Rights Movement and make a change in his home state. Charles Evers died of natural causes on July 22, 2020, at his home in Jackson, Mississippi.