Alcorn to honor Evers

Published 12:01am Monday, June 10, 2013

LORMAN — Sixty-one years after he graduated from Alcorn State University and 50 years after his assassination for work in the civil rights movement, Medgar Evers will stand tall on the ASU campus again.

Alcorn will dedicate the Medgar Wiley Evers Memorial Thursday, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Alcorn alumnus’ June 12, 1963, murder in Jackson. The dedication — an unveiling of the eight-foot-tall, bronze statue of Evers crafted by nationally acclaimed sculptor Ed Dwight, whose past work includes the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. — will be 10 a.m. on the ASU campus.

ASU President M. Christopher Brown II said the statue is the result of several years’ work from the Alcorn alumni community to recognize one of the school’s most famed graduates.

“We were hoping this statue will not just be a bronze memorial, but in fact a reminder of what each of us as an individual has a capacity to do in our own lives,” Brown said.

“Each individual who visits that statue has the same capacity that Medgar had to use their life, to use their thinking and consciousness, to make our world better.”

A veteran of World War II, Evers enrolled at Alcorn in 1948 and graduated in 1952, and applied to law school at the University of Mississippi — which was at that time segregated — only to be turned down. He would continue to push for the integration of the school into the 1960s.

Evers also helped organize boycotts of businesses that denied blacks access to services and facilities, and in 1954 he became the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi. He raised the ire of some reactionary groups after speaking out against and investigating civil rights-related killings, and in the weeks leading up to his death a Molotov cocktail was thrown at his home, and he was nearly run over by a car.

On June 12, 1963 — as Evers was carrying T-shirts reading “Jim Crow Must Go” into his house — White Citizens’ Council member Byron De La Beckworth shot him in the back with a rifle. The outspoken civil rights activist died less than an hour later at a local hospital.

He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

When the statue is unveiled, it will be facing Northeast, toward Jackson. Evers will be depicted holding a textbook, with his finger pointing in the direction of the capital, the city where he died.

“One of the interesting things we did is that we have Medgar walking forward, he is taking a step forward, into the future; into opportunity; into promise and hope,” Brown said.

The Evers family was involved in the process of the statue’s creation, Brown said, and was able to advise changes that might need to be made before it was cast in stone.

Medgar’s brother, Charles Evers of Jackson, said he is pleased by the statue, and he believes his brother would be proud to be honored in such a way.

“I think anyone would be proud — and he would be proud — that people are still remembering him and what he died for, and they would be unveiling a statue for him at his alma mater,” Charles Evers said.

While hate hasn’t been completely erased, Charles Evers said his brother would be proud with the progress that has been made in the last 50 years.

“Mississippi has the highest number of black elected leaders in the country; 50 years ago, Medgar Evers couldn’t register to vote, and now Mississippi has a higher number of registered blacks than any other state; Medgar Evers couldn’t get into ‘Ole Miss, and how I have two granddaughters who have law degrees who got them from ‘Ole Miss,” Charles Evers said.

“There are still a few mean folk in the country, white and black, but we have come a long, long way and Medgar would be proud.”