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50 years later, Medgar Evers is remembered

From wire reports | 6/5/2013, 1:17 p.m.
Myrlie Evers-Williams meets with President Obama on June 4, 2013

For Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the memories of 1963 are still raw.

Her family lived in terror behind the locked doors of their Jackson, Miss., home — a modest, three-bedroom, ranch-style house in one of the first new subdivisions built for blacks in Mississippi's segregated capital city. A back window in the tiny kitchen frames the backyard where Evers-Williams once grew rose bushes and a plum tree.

The family moved to Jackson when Evers accepted a job as the NAACP's first field secretary in the South — a job that made him a target of the white supremacists who would stop at nothing to preserve Jim Crow.

"Medgar became No. 1 on the Mississippi 'to kill' list," remembered Evers-Williams in a recent interview. "And we never knew from one day to the next what would happen. I lived in fear of losing him. He lived being constantly aware that he could be killed at any time."

The house was firebombed. The kitchen phone rang constantly with threats. Scars from the attacks still remain today.

Finally, just after midnight on June 12, 1963, a bullet struck Medgar Evers as he pulled into the driveway. Inside the house, the Evers' three young children heard the gunfire.

Fifty years later, the nation still remembers. President Barack Obama met with Evers's widow, Evers-Williams, and the Evers children and grandchildren in the Oval Office before the official ceremony commemorating his death.

Valerie Jarrett, the senior advisor to President Obama, contends the president's meeting with the Evers family “was a deeply poignant moment particularly timed on the same day the president appointed Judge Robert Leon Wilkins to the D.C. Circuit” (June 4). Jarrett, during a phone interview, said it is “a special day!” She explained, “To see Mrs. Evers and her family in the Oval Office, spending a private moment with the president demonstrates ‘that the royal arch of the universe is long but it does bends towards justice,’ to quote Dr. Martin Luther King.”

According to Jarrett, President Obama told Evers-Williams that the death of her husband “‘turned tragedy into a rallying call.’ The fact that he is buried in Arlington [National] Cemetery demonstrates that he is a warrior of justice.” Medgar Evers was a World War II Veteran who fought in Normandy, France and in Germany during the war.

The Oval Office meeting with the president and the Evers family was punctuated by a gift. Evers acknowledged her son, James Van Evers, presented President Obama with two black and white portrait originals. The portraits were inscribed. Jarrett said one portrait was of “Rosa Parks” and the other was of a “Coretta Scott King with Betty Shabazz and Myrlie Evers,” three of the widows of the Civil Rights Movement.

The president is planning on having the portraits mounted and placed in his “private office,” said Jarrett. It is not known if the president will hang the portraits in his private office off of the Oval Office or in his private office in the residence.

This was Evers-Williams' second meeting with the president this year. She spoke with the Obama family earlier this year as she delivered the invocation at the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama in January.