By Sen. Roger Wicker
Editor’s note: U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. offered these comments June 5 at Arlington National Cemetery at a wreath-placing ceremony in memory of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar W. Evers, who was murdered in Jackson 50 years ago today.
This is a personal honor for me today. I am humbled to speak this morning about Medgar Evers, son of Mississippi. In 1946, 20-year-old Medgar Evers returned to his native Mississippi after fighting for his country in France and Germany, only to see that his government was not willing to fight for him. We proudly remember Medgar Evers today and honor his name, but in doing so, we are required to remember a shameful time in our history.
Racial discrimination – in virtually every aspect of society – was the official policy of the state to which Medgar Evers returned. It was enforced by violence, condoned, even encouraged, by the power structure, including the highest levels of government officials – even by law enforcement. The racial segregation policies to which young Sgt. Evers returned were wrong, they were ugly and they were destructive to both whites and blacks. And, as a young family man, as a college graduate, as a new businessman, as an aspiring law student, Medgar Evers decided he would not stand for it.
He knew the danger – he had seen it firsthand – but he knew he had to persevere, and he did just that. His tragic assassination came at the young age of 37, but his memory survives and his prize was eventually won and continues to be won. We remember him today as a courageous and visionary leader and statesman – as a man on the right side of history! We all stand on his shoulders, we continue to learn from his example, and today we are indebted to him for his acts of courage. Thank you.