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50 Years Later, Medgar Evers' Widow Relives The Pain

Keynote speaker Myrlie Evers-Williams at Wagner College's commencement ceremony on May 24.
Jan Somma-Hammel
Staten Island Advance /Landov
Keynote speaker Myrlie Evers-Williams at Wagner College's commencement ceremony on May 24.

As NPR's Debbie Elliott has reported for Morning Edition and on the Code Switch blog, "for Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the memories of 1963 are still raw."

"Medgar became No. 1 on the Mississippi 'to kill' list," Evers-Williams told NPR. "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."

On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was killed — shot dead by a white segregationist as he pulled into a driveway in Jackson, Miss. Evers' death was one of several major moments in the long civil rights struggle.

Myrlie Evers-Williams is now a scholar-in-residence at Mississippi's Alcorn State University, where she met Medgar Evers when they were students in 1950. Wednesday on Tell Me More, she shared some more thoughts about him and how his death affected her life:

-- "Medgar gave so freely of himself. And for many years, his name was very seldom if ever mentioned with other civil rights leaders. I found that an unbearable pain because he was one of the first and gave so freely and ... wanted nothing for himself in all this."

-- "The events stay with you regardless of the year or the time. They are there. You work through them. You suppress them. You put them away and now here I am, surprisingly so to me, reliving all of these things."

-- "I really am surprised that I'm beginning to feel a little emotional about it because I have fought emotion and replaced emotion with doing things that were positive to help people remember Medgar."

-- "I had promised Medgar just a couple of nights or so before he was killed that if anything happened to him and I survived, I would be sure that justice would be served."

-- "Our younger son ... was at Arlington Cemetery, and there was a private gathering at Medgar's gravesite. And he became a little emotional. But he looked at me, and he embraced me, and he said 'Mom, that was my dad.' That moved me more than anything else."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.