In an honor bestowed on only a handful of individuals, the U.S. Navy named its newest ship for assassinated NAACP civil and voting rights icon Medgar Evers.
Christened in San Diego, Calif., on Nov. 12 by Evers’ widow Myrlie Evers-Williams, the USNS Medgar Evers will serve as a supply ship for the Navy starting in the first quarter of 2012.
“I am just so honored for Medgar and all of the other people who gave their lives in the civil rights movement, particularly those in Mississippi,” Evers-Williams said. “In my humble estimation, very few of them have received rightful acknowledgment of their contributions. He was a man who did believe in this country and he believed in his people. He wanted things to be just and fair and he was willing to work for that.”
Medgar Wiley Evers, an Army veteran, was born and raised in Mississippi, where, after completing his military service in 1946, he returned to earn his degree from Alcorn A&M College, now Alcorn State University. After graduation, he began working on behalf of the NAACP in the fight to end segregation. In 1954, he became the first NAACP state field secretary in Mississippi.
He organized boycotts and demonstrations to bring attention to the pervasive discrimination of the time and urge an end to racial injustice. He also led the investigation into the murder of Emmitt Till, who at age 14, was killed for talking to a white woman.
Evers may be best remembered for his fight to secure voting rights for all Americans. He helped lead the charge for voting rights in Mississippi, organizing voter registration efforts across the state.
After returning from an NAACP meeting on June 12, 1963, Evers was assassinated outside his home by a member of the White Citizens' Council.
Two months before his murder, he had anticipated that his work for civil rights would bring about his death. “I expect to be shot anytime I step out of my car… if I die, it will be in a good cause,” he said.
The USNS Medgar Evers is the 13th ship of the Lewis and Clark (T-AKE) Class of dry cargo ships General Dynamics NASSCO is building for the Navy. Constructing began in April 2010.
Photo: Medgar Evers