This Day in History: June 12th

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Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers was murdered in his driveway. While taking T-shirts (which read “Jim Crow Must Go” on the front) out of his trunk for a rally the next day, Evers was shot on June 12, 1963, by domestic terrorist and member of the White Citizen’s Council, Byron De La Beckwith with a rifle used to take down elephants several blocks away.

The bullet passed through Evers’ heart, into the front room of his home, through the living room wall, into the kitchen and into the refrigerator. The bullet holes are preserved in his Mississippi home, which has been turned into a museum.

Evers still had enough strength to stagger from his driveway to his front door where his wife, Myrlie found him. He was taken to the local hospital in Jackson, where he was initially refused entry because he was black. When they discovered who he was, Evers was admitted but died 50 minutes after arriving. He was the first Black person admitted to an all-white hospital in Mississippi.

Evers, who served in the United States Army during World War II where he fought in the Battle of Normandy in June of 1944 and was honorably discharged as a sergeant, was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Two all-white juries failed to convict De La Beckwith. They deadlocked in trials in February and April 1964 and De La Beckwith was set free. But in 1994, because of the persistence of Evers’ widow, De La Beckwith was put back on trial based on new evidence. De La Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994. He died at age 80 in prison on January 21, 2001.

Myrlie Evers continued her husband’s work, serving as national chair of the NAACP. In 1969, Evers’ brother, Charles, became the first person from the Global Majority after Reconstruction to be elected mayor of a Mississippi city (Fayette).

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