Civil Rights Leader Myrlie Evers-Williams Speaks Feb. 17 at WSU

PULLMAN, Wash. — Civil rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams, former chair of the Board of Directors of the NAACP and widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, will deliver a public address Feb. 17 at Washington State University.
The free address, at 7 p.m. in WSU’s Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, is sponsored by Avista Utilities-WWP Division, WSU and the University of Idaho.
A reception on the coliseum concourse will follow the address. Evers-Williams will sign copies of her new autobiography, “Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be,” which will be for sale. Little Brown published it this year.
After four terms as board chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and leading the organization out of financial and organizational difficulties, Evers-Williams did not seek reelection for a fifth term last year. Civil rights activist Julian Bond succeeded her. She remains a member of the board through the end of February.
She is establishing a nonprofit institute named for Medgar Evers. Since his death she says she has been “committed to seeing that his legacy and proper place in history are maintained.”
A Bend, Ore., resident since 1991, Evers-Williams is the author of “For Us, The Living.” It tells of the life of her late husband and the civil rights struggle in Mississippi.
While she and her husband worked for an insurance company, they traveled throughout the Mississippi Delta and, according to speech organizers, and saw the “burden of poverty and injustice” imposed on African Americans. “Determined to make positive changes in that society,” they opened and managed the first NAACP Mississippi State office. “They lived under constant threats as they worked for voting rights, economic stability, fair housing, equality, justice and dignity.”
Evers-Williams and the couple’s three small children witnessed Medgar Evers’ assassination in the front of their Jackson, Miss., home on June 12, 1963. Two hung juries failed to convict the suspect accused of the murder. In 1994, she was present at the third trial in which the suspect was tried and found guilty of murder. He is now serving life in prison.
In February 1995, shortly after she was elected to her first term as NAACP chair, her second husband, Walter Edward Williams, also a civil rights activist, died of cancer.
This past summer, she received the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor. In 1963, she accepted the same medal posthumously on behalf of Medgar Evers. This is the first time the award has gone to more than one member of a family, and she is the first Oregonian to be so recognized.
The NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Founded in New York in 1909, the NAACP has 2,200 chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Italy, Japan, Korea and Germany, and is based in Baltimore.
For additional information, contact Ernestine Madison, WSU Human Relations and Resources vice provost, 509/335-8888, or Dona Walker, UI Multicultural Affairs director, 208/885-7716.