By Ray Abrams
AFRO Staff Correspondent
June 22, 1963
Jackson, Miss. — Mississippi is a bitter state meeting pleas for equality with bigotry and bullets.
In its capital today, three youngsters are fatherless. With unbelieving eyes they saw him gunned to death in the driveway of their home.
“Get up, daddy,” they pleaded as they ran outdoors into the night. “Stand up ad come into the house with us,” they begged.
But Medgar Evers lay where he had fallen. A bullet had entered his back and pierced his body and somewhere that very moment, within hearing of children’s voices, a coward fled the scene.
July 4, 1963 – Myrlie Evers and her James ride in a NAACP “Freedom March” parade in Chicago. ( AP Photowire)
In this capital today a widow lives. Her courage has fortified the weak, and fearlessness now abounds everywhere. She says her “heart is broken,” and adds that she is without “the comfort of a husband.”
And above all she prays that his death “be not in vain.”
“Amen,” say the people here.
Within a day of her husband’s death, Mrs. Evers, with newfound strength, appeared at a solemn assembly at Pearl Street AME Church.
Tears were in her eyes and her voice faltered at times but the words she spoke rang loud and clear, forcing their way into the minds and hearts of young and old. She called for battle, but begged non-violence.
Said she to those 700 or more who had packed the church:
“I come here tonight with a broken heart, but I come because of the duty to do so.
“No one knows as I ow my husband gave his life for the cause. He lived with it 24 hours of every day.
“It was his wish that this movement be one of the most successful this nation and the world has ever known.
“It was just this past Sunday afternoon that my husband found some time.
“He talked of death then. He said he was prepared, and if he had to go, this was the way he would want it. He was not afraid.
“He did not die for himself alone, or for his family, or for his friends or the colored people of Jackson and the world. But also for his white brethren.
“I am left without comfort of a husband,” she continued in slow, measured tones. “I am left with three children. But I am also left with a strong determination to take up where he left off.”
Her voice swelled in volume. “I have his strength,” she cried out. “I hope we can all draw upon his strength, his courage and his determination to finish this fight.”
“Amen.” Came a solid chorus.
Her voice became low. “I guess I came here to ask a favor.”
Heads bowed low and hands went to the eyes.
“Nothing can bring Medgar back,” she said quietly.
“But his cause can live on.”
“I don’t want his death to be in vain.” She then moved back toward the chair. The people rose in tribute. Silence reigned but minds and hearts were in turmoil and muscles flexed with new found energy.
Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Evers left the church with an official of the Justice Department.
A group of British newsmen came up to this reporter. “Never,” said one of them. “Have I seen such a woman.” Others nodded their heads.
In the church a collection was taken for the Evers family. Reporters passed by and gave. Within minutes $650 was collected.
“It is a beginning,” one clergyman said. “There is no limit on this fund. Medgar had a good 15 years of earning power left in him. We will aim for that, and it will be here for his family.
The Rev. S.L. Whitney said:
“I died today, when I heard at Evers’ death. And I was resurrected today as I stood and watched a pool of blood.
“His blood has spurred demonstrations today, and will tomorrow, and tomorrow. Bullets can kill men, but not ideas. And we have the best ideas of all FREEDOM.
Said another minister that same evening: “How stupid can people be? How can they believe that a bulletproof closed a chapter here. The bullet closed a chapter here. The bullet has opened a great new book.
And so as Medgar Evers awaits his grave, grief haunts the hearts of those he left behind.
But let there be no doubt — his strength, courage and determination remain everywhere. Wednesday his followers become leaders. His cause is now resurrected beyond extinction.
When Mississippi murdered Evers, the Deep South did much to prepare for its own suicide.
The stores in downtown Jackson will see no colored patrons. An all-out effort to insure that Evers’ death was not in vain is the goal of those who have amen up where he left off.
The sniper’s bullet brought the colored community here to its boiling point. Local civil rights leaders and national NAACP officers on the scene have had their hands full keeping as indignant throng rom vengeance through violence.
Feelings ran high shortly after the “shot in the back” which left 37-year-old Evers, a father of three young children, dead. A total of 160 new arrests were made Wednesday because of local demonstrations in the wake of the crime which left a shamed nation.
Thirteen of those arrested were ministers in mourning for the dead NAACP field secretary. They were later released in their own recognizance, while the rest were jailed at detention camps on the outskirts of Jackson.
According to state and local authorities the largest manhunt in Mississippi’s history is underway for the assassin. Rewards now total $22,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. The NAACP offered $10,000.