VICKSBURG FACTS: Myrlie Evers-Williams faced challenges with open arms

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 10, 2023

Did you know Vicksburg is the hometown of civil rights activist Dr. Myrlie Evers-Williams?

Myrlie Evers-Williams, born Myrlie Beasley, is an American civil rights activist and journalist from Vicksburg.

Evers-Williams was born in 1933 and raised by her grandmother and aunt. Both her grandmother and aunt were college-educated school teachers who pushed Evers-Williams into a love for learning, according to the National Park Service. Evers-Williams went on to be an honors student at Alcorn A&M College majoring in education in 1950.

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She then met Medgar Evers and the pair got married in Vicksburg at Mt. Heroden Baptist Church in 1951. The couple moved to Mound Bayou, Miss., where they began to raise their first two children. During the civil rights movement, the couple would organize the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branches in the Mississippi Delta according to Evers Williams’s biography on the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s website. 

By 1954, the couple moved to Jackson, where they started the first NAACP field office there. By 1963, Medgar Evers was shot dead by white extremists, leaving Evers-Williams to continue his legacy. After the mistrials of her husband’s death, she moved to California and earned a sociology degree from Pomona College.

Soon, she worked in a corporate career and became active in politics to fight for justice and equality in the nation. She became a founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, served as Commissioner of Public Works for Los Angeles, ran for Congress in California’s 24th congressional district, she used her writing skills to aid the Ladies Home Journal and talk about the Paris Peace Talks and became the Director of Consumer Affairs for the Atlantic Richfield Company according to the National Park Service website.

In 1976, Evers-Williams married Walter Williams who was a labor organizer and civil rights activist. She continued to fight for justice and decided to reopen her first husband’s murder case. In the 1990s, Evers-Williams was able to get Mississippi prosecutors to reopen Evers’ case, which ultimately lead to the conviction and life imprisonment of his killer. 

Evers-Williams has served on the NAACP National Board of Directors for almost a decade and became its chairman in 1995. Later on, she established a non-profit organization that promotes education and community engagement in the Jackson area known as Medgar Evers Institute, which was later renamed the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute.

In 2013, she delivered the invocation at President Obama’s second inauguration and became the first woman and non-clergy member to ever give an invocation speech.

Evers-Williams continues to enlighten and empower those in the Vicksburg community.