I feel like I need to at least mention the Super Bowl. For some reason, it always seems to give me an excuse to eat things that I normally would not eat.
All across America, people refused to step on the scale this morning.
I saw that a listing of searches on google during the Super Bowl included a lot of “Who is Justin Timberlake?” Or maybe that was just the “Selfie Kid”! That made me laugh.
That game was truly crazy exciting. The streets of Philadelphia were filled with celebration! Now to our blog topic.
This is about the trial of Brian De La Beckwith. It’s important because on this day in 1994, he was convicted of killing Medgar Wiley Evers. (History.com) The story that includes the two prior trials will make you shake your head at justice then, in Mississippi.
Medgar Evers (Wikipedia) was a civil rights activist in Mississippi and became that state’s field secretary for the NAACP. (the first NAACP field secretary in the south) He was a World War II veteran who had participated in the Normandy invasion.
After the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the opinion of Brown v. Board of Education that held that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers challenged the segregation of the University of Mississippi by applying to their law school. Despite the Supreme Court decision, he was still denied admission because of his race.
Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision and in response to the opinion, local whites founded the White Citizens’ Council in Mississippi. It was their goal to resist the integration of schools and facilities.
In 1962, Evers helped James Meredith become the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi. Evers was becoming more known for his efforts to combat segregation, and he received numerous threats, with several attempts being made on his life.
By the summer of 1963, he had spent nearly nine years organizing voter registration drives and leading boycotts of segregated Mississippi businesses. On June 11, President John F. Kennedy had delivered an address from the oval office, calling for Congress to take action in the area of civil rights. Following that speech, Evers was at an organizational meeting at a local church. He returned home sometime after midnight, less than four hours after the Kennedy speech.
Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Mississippi home on June 12, 1963, while his wife and the couple’s three small children were inside the house. He had emerged from his car, carrying NAACP t-shirts that read “Jim Crow Must Go”
Evers was struck in the back. The bullet ripped through his heart. Initially thrown to the ground by the impact of the shot, Evers rose and staggered 30 feet before collapsing. His wife found him outside their front door.
He was taken to the local hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was initially refused entry, because of his race. His family explained who he was and he was admitted; he died in the hospital 50 minutes later. Evers was the first African American to be admitted to an all-white hospital in Mississippi. Over 5000 mourners attended his funeral.
Just two weeks after the assassination, Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the local White Citizen’s Council, was arrested for Evers’ murder. Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and Ku Klux Klan member, was prosecuted for murder in 1964. However, two all-white (and all-male) juries deadlocked and refused to convict him. That second trial held in the same year resulted in a hung jury. The follow-up prosecution was not pursued, after it appeared that a conviction would be impossible.
De La Beckwith had reportedly repeatedly bragged about being responsible for the murder, and even unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor of Mississippi.
Beckwith remained free until the 1990s. Then, because of new evidence gathered by Medgar Evers wife (Myrlie Evers-Williams) and others, the case was reopened. Some of the new evidence submitted for retrial included that the juries in the original two trials had been improperly screened. At the time, most blacks were kept from registering to vote by Mississippi’s constitution. This meant that they were also excluded from juries because jurors were drawn from the pool of registered voters.
On February 5, 1994, De La Beckwith was finally convicted, this time by a racially mixed jury. At the third trial, the prosecution produced a rifle-scope from the murder weapon that had Beckwith’s fingerprints. New witnesses also testified that Beckwith had bragged about committing the murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Beckwith died in prison in 2001, at the age of 90. The decades-long effort to bring De La Beckwith to justice was dramatized in the 1996 film “Ghosts of Mississippi“.
At the Arlington National Cemetery tribute to Evers on the 50th Anniversary of his death, his widow read the following:
- “Medgar was a man who never wanted adoration, who never wanted to be in the limelight. He was a man who saw a job that needed to be done and he answered the call and the fight for freedom, dignity and justice not just for his people but all people.”
Now after that history, let’s change it up. For pic o’ day, how about this strategy?