NAACP History: Myrlie Evers-Williams
Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams is a phenomenal woman of great strength and courage. Her dedication to civil rights and equality is exemplified by her activist role, linking together business, government, and social issues to further human rights and equality. On February 18, 1995, she was elected to the position of Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). With the support of a strong member base of the NAACP, she is credited with spearheading the operations that restored the Association to its original status as the premier civil rights organization.
A native of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Mrs. Evers-Williams was an honor student at Alcorn A & M College, Lorman, Mississippi, where she met and married another outstanding student, Medgar Evers. They moved to historic Mound Bayou, Mississippi, where they embarked on business careers with Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. Business responsibilities demanded extensive travel in the Delta where they witnessed the burden of poverty and injustice imposed on their people. Determined to make positive changes in that society, both Medgar and Myrlie opened and managed the first NAACP Mississippi State Office. They lived under constant threats as they worked for voting rights, economic stability, fair housing, equal education, equal justice, and dignity.
A true pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, Medgar Evers was assassinated on June 12, 1963. Myrlie and their three small children saw the murder at the front door of their home in Jackson, Mississippi. After suffering through two hung jury trials in the murder of her husband, Mrs. Evers-Williams moved her three children to California. She did not see justice for the murder of Medgar Evers until 31 years later.In 1994, she was present when the verdict of guilty and life imprisonment was handed down for Byron De La Beckwith. At last, she was victorious, Her persistence and faith in the pursuit of justice for the assassination that changed her life and that of her children had come to fruition.
Myrlie knew the value of education. She received her B.A. degree in Sociology in 1968 and a Certificate from Simmons College, School of Management, Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, she has received honorary doctorates from Pomona College, Medgar Evers College, Spelman College, Columbia College, Bennett College, Tougaloo College, Willamette University, Howard University and others.
She has held the position of Director, Planning and Development for the Claremont College; first African-American woman to serve as Commissioner, Board of Public Works, Los Angeles, California; vice president, Seligman & Latz; and national director of consumer affairs, Atlantic Richfield. She chronicled the life of her late husband, Medgar, and the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in a book, For Us, the Living. She also anchored a special HBO production, "Southern Justice, the Murder of Medgar Evers.
Myrlie Evers-Williams was married for 18 years to Walter Edward Williams, himself a civil rights activist until his death two days after she was elected chairman of the board of the NAACP.
On February 10, 1998, Evers-Williams announced that she had successfully completed her mission and would not seek another term of office but would devote her efforts to establishing the Medgar Evers Institute, linking business, government, and communities to further human rights and equality.
In 1999 Evers-Williams saw her latest book, Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be, published. In the bestseller I Dream A World: Black Women Who Changed America, Evers-Williams says that she "greets today and the future with open arms." This credo has carried her through years of struggle and success.
Her children and six grandchildren remain her strongest supporters in her continued fight to secure equal rights for all people, and to preserve those rights for future generations.