US civil-rights activist. His murder in 1963 fuelled the civil-rights movement and increased support for legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act 1964.
Evers served as Mississippi state field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 1954–63. He travelled throughout the state working on recruitment and voter registration drives, economic boycotts and demonstrations, and investigations into crimes against blacks. His civil-rights work made him a target of white supremacists, and in June 1963 he was shot dead during an ambush at his house. His death and the subsequent trial of Byron De La Beckwith, the accused murderer, were widely publicized. He was buried with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery and was posthumously awarded the 1963 NAACP Spingarn Medal. Beckwith was tried and acquitted twice, both by all-white juries. In 1994 he was tried a third time, by a mixed jury, and was sentenced to life in prison. He died in 2001.
Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi. He served in the US Army 1943–46 and fought in France and Germany during World War II. He attended Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) in Lorman, Mississippi, 1948–52, and worked as an insurance salesman 1952–54. After the landmark US Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which legally ended school segregation, he applied to the University of Mississippi Law School and was rejected. His effort to integrate the school brought him into the front line of the civil-rights movement. After his death in 1963 his brother, Charles Evers, took over his position in the NAACP and went on to become a major political leader in Mississippi.