Medgar Evers and Myrlie Beasley began their life together at Alcorn

JANS — Love is always in the air at Alcorn State University. One of America’s most famous couples who met there were Medgar Evers of Decatur, MS, and Myrlie Beasley of Vicksburg, MS. The year was 1950. Medgar was a star athlete and president of the junior class and Myrlie, an incoming freshman, enjoyed her rigorous classical music studies.  A year later they wed, making life anew in the small Mississippi Delta town of Mound Bayou. There they embarked on business careers with Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. Business responsibilities demanded extensive travel in the Delta where they witnessed the burden of poverty and injustice imposed on their people. Determined to make positive changes in that society, both Medgar and Myrlie opened and managed the first NAACP Mississippi State Office. They lived under constant threats as they worked for voting rights, economic stability, fair housing, equal education, equal justice, and dignity. Medgar was appointed as the NAACP’s first field secretary of Mississippi in 1954. The couple organized efforts throughout the state of Mississippi to recruit new members for the organization and were leaders in the desegregation of local businesses and schools. The latter effort resulted in the University of Mississippi enrolling its first African American student, James Meredith, in 1962. As their reputation grew during that time, the Evers were targeted for physical attacks. They experienced the bombing of their carport on May 28, 1963. A few weeks later, Medgar Evers was assassinated just outside of the family’s home in Jackson, Mississippi on June 12, 1963. Myrlie left Mississippi with her three children and moved to California where she earned her degree in sociology from Pomona College in 1968. After graduating, she served as director of consumer affairs at Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO.)  In 1970 and 1971, she ran for Congress and helped to establish the National Women’s Political Caucus. In 1975, she married Walter Williams, another civil rights activist. They were married 18 years before his death in 1995, two days after she became the first woman elected as chair of the Board of the NAACP. As the NAACP’s top official, Evers-Williams led efforts to restore the organization’s fiscal stability. She did not to seek a second term but founded the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Mississippi, to impact and train youth in creating positive change through civic engagement.  In 1999, Evers-Williams penned her autobiography, Watch Me Fly.Additionally, Evers-Williams served as consultant for the 1996 film, Ghosts of Mississippi. The film recounts the third trial of Byron De La Beckwith who was convicted in 1994 of the murder of Medgar Evers. Evers-Williams is also the author of For Us, The Living, which recounts her courtship and marriage to Medgar Evers and the couple’s role as central figures of the Civil Rights Movement.Appreciation for Medgar’s contributions to creating a better America is seen throughout the nation. They include Medgar Wiley Evers College in New York; The Medgar Wiley Evers Post Office in downtown Jackson, MS; the Jackson-Evers International Airport in Jackson, MS; the Medgar Wiley Evers Public Library in Jackson, MS; Medgar Evers Blvd., in Jackson, MS, and several other honors, including scores of service awards named for him. His family coordinates the annual Medgar Evers Homecoming as a way to continue his work in the community. The event has grown each year since its inception 48 years ago. Myrlie has received many awards and honors for her years of dedicated service, including honorary doctorates from Pomona College, Medgar Evers College, Spelman College, Columbia College, Bennett College, Tougaloo College, Willamette University, Howard University and others. She has served on numerous boards and commissions, including Tougaloo College Board of Trustees. She speaks at colleges and universities every chance she gets to ensure young people know about America’s gentle warrior, Medgar Wiley Evers.