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Bryon De La Beckwith evaded justice after the cowardly killing of Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers in June 1963. It would be nearly 31 years later before the family received justice, and on this day in 1994, Beckwith was sentenced to life in prison.

Medgar Evers was a member of the NAACP and the first field secretary for Mississippi. His position with the group was to help combat segregation, promote the need for voter equality, and help stage economic boycotts. On June 12, 1963 under the cover of darkness shortly after midnight, Evers was shot in the back and died shortly after.

Beckwith, a known member of the Ku Klux Klan and a fertilizer salesman, was arrested for the crime and faced an all-white, all-male jury that failed twice to convict him of the murder. Evers’ widow, Mrylie Evers-Williams, moved her family to California and make a new life for herself but continued her quest to convict her husband’s killer.

A break happened by way of an investigative report from a Jackson newspaper in 1989 that revealed there may have been witnessed who were not interviewed and that jury members weren’t properly screened. Further, these unknown witnesses said that Beckwith confessed to the murder in private and apparently singled out Evers.

In 1990, an indictment was carried out against Beckwith which led to years of legal wrangling. On February 5, 1994, following a third trial, Beckwith was officially convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He lived out the rest of his days jailed, dying at the age of 80 in 2001.

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Little Known Black History Fact: Byron De La Beckwith was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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