Civil Rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers could be posthumously awarded a congressional gold medal if Congress approves and the president signs recently introduced legislation into law.
H.R. 5282, introduced July 30 by Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., seeks a gold medal to honor Evers’ contributions and “ultimate sacrifice in the fight for racial equality in the United States.”
Evers served in the U.S. Army during World War II and then attended college.
Upon graduation, Evers began establishing local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People throughout the Mississippi Delta. He served as the first field secretary for the Mississippi chapter.
As a result of “his continued and ongoing efforts, rallies, sit-ins, and protests, to stand up for the rights of African-Americans in Mississippi, Evers was arrested, beaten, and jailed with his due process rights denied,” according to the bill.
Evers was murdered in front of his home on June 12, 1963, at the age of 37, leaving behind a wife, and three children ages 9, 8 and 3.
Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council, was arrested for Evers’ murder, but juries, composed solely of white men, twice deadlocked on De La Beckwith’s guilt in 1964, resulting in mistrials.
In 1990 Evers’ widow convinced Mississippi prosecutors to reopen his murder case and a new trial led to the conviction and life imprisonment of De La Beckwith in 1994. He died in 2001.
The legislation specifies that the medal would be given to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, where it would be available for display or temporary loan to be displayed elsewhere, as appropriate. The sale of bronze duplicates would also be authorized.
The bill was referred to the House Financial Services Committee.