Medgar Evers' life celebrated in Decatur
COMMEMORATION Gov. Ronnie Musgrove greets Myrlie Evers-Williams, center, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and her daughter, Reena Evers-Everrette Tuesday night. They participated in commemoration ceremonies at East Central Community College in Decatur marking the 40th anniversary of Medgar Evers' murder in the driveway of his home in Jackson. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
June 11, 2003
DECATUR The life of Medgar Evers was celebrated in his hometown here Tuesday night. Soon there will be permanent displays in Newton County to honor him and his major contributions to the civil rights movement.
A large crowd that included Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, former Gov. William Winter and the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, chief operating officer of the NAACP, paid tribute to Evers and his work at Huff Auditorium on the campus of East Central Community College.
One of the event's organizers was attorney Bill May, of Newton. He said he and several others on a committee sought to publicly celebrate Evers' roots in Newton County and to show the Evers family that residents are proud of him and his legacy.
May announced Tuesday night that the Newton County Board of Supervisors has approved putting up an historical marker commemorating Medgar Evers at the courthouse in Decatur and that the Newton board of aldermen has approved naming the interchange of Interstate 20 at Newton the Medgar Evers Intersection.
May, 46, was 7 years old when Evers was shot and killed outside of his home in Jackson 40 years ago.
Several speakers during Tuesday's program, including Myrlie Evers-Williams, offered a glimpse into "the human element" of Medgar Evers.
She said it had been painful to see Medgar Evers as a footnote in history books over the years. "There was so much more to the man," she said. "I want to see him remembered."
She said he was tired sometimes and fearful sometimes as he worked as field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She said he did not want to be a martyr, but was a man on a mission, and a primary mission was to register black voters in Mississippi.
Evers' brother, Charles Evers, of Fayette, is a supervisor in Jefferson County. He said he is proud that his brother is remembered.
William Winter, who was governor of Mississippi in the early 1980s, brought the crowd to its feet with his comments during the program Tuesday night. He talked about Evers' dream being the same as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who two months after Evers' death, delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
He said Evers' work helped free both blacks and whites from the "straight jacket of segregation imposed on all of us."
Musgrove told the crowd that the story of Medgar Evers lives on 40 years after his death and that while mourning his loss, the vast purpose of his life is celebrated.