June 12, 1963 | Medgar Evers

 
 

It was slightly after midnight when he came home. We heard the car, the motor, which we were very familiar with, and the children said, ‘There's Daddy.’ … And we heard the car pull in the driveway, and this horrible blast. And the children fell to the floor, as he had taught them to do. The baby was on the bed with me, and I bolted up off the bed and ran to the front door, and opened the door, and there was Medgar at the steps leading to the front door with his keys in his hand.
—Myrlie Evers, widow of Medgar Evers

Fifty years ago, Medgar Evers, the NAACP field secretary in Mississippi, was assassinated in front of his home by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. In the racial turmoil of the civil rights era, when law enforcement officers sometimes failed to live up to the public trust, the Jackson (MS) Police Department and the FBI were praised for the diligent and honest efforts their officers put forth to solve the case.

Fifteen minutes after the shooting, Officer John Chamblee and Detective Fred Sanders arrived at the Evers’ home and began processing the crime scene. They traced the path of the bullet that killed Evers — through the home and then back to an area across the street where bushes and trees would have concealed the shooter. After the sun rose, officers began a slow deliberate search of the brush and vines and found the shooter’s rifle. Captain Ralph Hargrove dusted the rifle for prints and was able to find one good latent print on its scope. The officers worked closely with the FBI to trace the print and find the owner of the rifle.

Eleven days later Byron De La Beckwith was arrested for the murder of Medgar Evers. His first two trials ended in a hung jury. He was not convicted of the crime until 1994 and served seven years of a life sentence before his death at the age of 80.