Evers Papers Donated To Department Of Archives And History

Myrlie Evers-Williams said it's appropriate that Mississippi, the state where her husband was assassinated in his push for civil rights, will be home to his letters, speeches and notes.

"This is where they belong,'' Evers-Williams told a racially mixed crowd of more than 200 Thursday as she donated Medgar Evers' papers to the state Department of Archives and History.

Evers-Williams said her late husband always believed his home state could rise above its troubled history of racial division. Mississippi has embraced change in the past four decades and still has more progress to make, she said.

Evers, field secretary for the NAACP, was slain in his family's driveway early on June 12, 1963, hours after President Kennedy delivered a civil rights speech.

Myrlie Evers-Williams and the couple's three children moved away from Mississippi in 1964. She lived in California before moving to Bend, Ore., and was national NAACP chairwoman from 1995 to 1998.

She said she donated the papers to Mississippi because she wants scholars, professional and amateur, to make the connection between the civil rights movement and the kind of race relations Mississippi has realized since then.

Former Gov. William Winter, a longtime member of the Archives and History Board of Trustees, opened the ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum by telling Evers-Williams, a Vicksburg native:

"Welcome home, Myrlie.'' Winter said Medgar Evers "gave his life in his quest to free us all, black and white folks alike, from the bondage of racial segregation and discrimination. He was a true hero.''

Evers-Williams gave 55 boxes to the state archives. The collection includes her papers and photographs, as well. The documents will be open to researchers next year.

"It was very difficult for me to let the papers go,'' Evers-Williams said. "I could pick them up and see a little bit of Medgar.''

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has manuscripts, diaries and other documents related to the Civil War, including the papers of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Before the Evers donation, the state archives had no papers from national civil rights leaders.

Among those attending the dedication ceremony for Evers' papers was former Gov. Bill Waller Sr., who as Hinds County district attorney in 1964 prosecuted Byron De La Beckwith for the killing. Beckwith was freed after two all-white juries failed to convict him.

In the early 1990s, documents of a state spy agency, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, revealed that agents worked to get Beckwith acquitted. He was indicted again and convicted in 1994. Beckwith was serving a life sentence when he died in prison in 2001.