Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers' work honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Lici Beveridge

Civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was murdered outside his Jackson home in 1963, was honored by President Joe Biden on Friday. He was named one of 19 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values or security of the United States, world peace or other significant societal, public or private endeavors, the White House said in a news release.

“My heart is full from the news of this extraordinary honor. My beloved husband, Medgar, was the love of my life, my steadfast partner and a devoted, loving father," Evers' widow Myrlie Evers-Williams said in a news release. "To the world, he was a civil rights leader; to me and our three children, he was the world. Medgar balanced his monumental public role with a dedication to his family like no other."

Evers worked in the 1950s and 1960s work to end segregation in Mississippi and nationwide. He advocated for voting rights and equality for Black Americans until he was killed. His family, including his wife and children, and brother, Charles Evers, carried on with his work.

"On that fatal night, June 12, 1963, Medgar was gunned down in our driveway," Evers-Williams said. "His body was no longer with us, but the unleashing of his fighting spirit sprung forth. Medgar's belief that America should and could be better than separate and unequal took hold, swept the country and inspired generations."

Evers-Williams said her husband's "heroic work laid the foundation for a more just and equitable society."

"This medal is a tribute to his courageous leadership and his ultimate sacrifice," she said. "Medgar was a committed activist, educator, organizer, husband, father, brother, son and friend. With this esteem recognition, the world will remember his legacy forever."

In addition to working as a civil rights activist, Evers was an Army veteran who fought for his country in World War II. After his return from the war, he resumed his mission to lead the fight against segregation in Mississippi.

“This is a powerful way to honor Medgar Evers’ life and legacy," Sen. Roger Wicker said in a news release. "The fact that he is receiving this award 60 years after his death is proof that he has inspired the generations that followed. His work did not die with him in 1963. I am grateful to the president for selecting this native son of our state for this well-deserved distinction.”

Other Mississippi leaders in Washington echoed Wicker's thoughts:

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a testament to Medgar Evers' enduring impact on not only Mississippi but also the nation," Rep. Bennie Thompson said. "As someone deeply influenced by his legacy, I am honored to witness this recognition. I extend my gratitude to President Biden for acknowledging Medgar Evers' pivotal role in our history and bestowing upon him this well-deserved honor.”

“Medgar Evers, who is already remembered for his pursuit of equality and justice as part of the civil rights movement, now joins a most distinguished group of Americans who are forever singled out for their life’s work," Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said. "I applaud the award of this Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I hope will renew our commitment to strive for the values for which Medgar Evers gave his life.”

“Medgar Evers has earned and deserves to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom," Rep. Trent Kelly said. "His devotion to civil rights will always be remembered.”

"With his service on the battlefield of World War II and his work in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, Evers showed his fellow Mississippians the power of serving others," Rep. Michael Guest said. "I’m thankful to see Evers selected to receive the Presidential Medal of Honor posthumously.”

“Medgar Evers’ work to secure equal rights has made a lasting impact on not just our state, but our entire nation," Rep. Mike Ezell said. "I was glad to join the full delegation in calling for him to posthumously receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and I am proud to see him receive this recognition for his legacy and his work.”