Byron De La Beckwith Jr. (November 9, 1920 – January 21, 2001) was an American white supremacist and Klansman from Greenwood, Mississippi, who assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963. Two trials in 1964 on this charge resulted in hung juries. In 1994, he was tried by the state in a new trial based on new evidence; he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. Seven years after being convicted of killing Evers, De La Beckwith died in prison in 2001 at age 80.
Byron De La Beckwith
|Born||November 9, 1920|
Colusa, California, U.S.
|Died||January 21, 2001 (aged 80)|
|Known for||The assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers|
Mary Louise Williams (m. 1946–1960)
Thelma Neff (m. 1982–2001)(his death)
|Children||Delay De La Beckwith|
De La Beckwith was born in Colusa, California, the son of Susan Southworth Yerger and Byron De La Beckwith Sr., who was the town's postmaster. His father died of pneumonia when he was five years old. One year later, De La Beckwith and his mother settled in Greenwood, Mississippi, to be near family. His mother died of lung cancer when he was 12 years old, leaving him orphaned. He was raised by his maternal uncle William Greene Yerger and his wife.
In January 1942, De La Beckwith enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving as a machine gunner in the Pacific theater of World War II. He fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal and was shot in the waist during the Battle of Tarawa. De La Beckwith was honorably discharged in August 1945.
After serving in the Marine Corps, De La Beckwith moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he married Mary Louise Williams. The couple relocated to Mississippi, where they settled in his hometown of Greenwood. They had a son together, Delay De La Beckwith. De La Beckwith and Williams divorced. He later married Thelma Lindsay Neff.
De La Beckwith worked as a salesman for most of his life, selling tobacco, fertilizer, wood stoves, and a variety of other goods. In 1954, following the United States Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, he became a member of a newly formed chapter of the White Citizens' Council. The group was formed in Mississippi that year in order to resist integration and maintain the exclusion of blacks from the state's political system.
De La Beckwith planned more direct action than economic boycotts. On June 12, 1963, at age 42, he assassinated NAACP and civil rights leader Medgar Evers shortly after the activist arrived home in Jackson. Beckwith was positioned across the street with a rifle, and he shot Evers in the back. Evers died an hour later, aged 37 years. Myrlie Evers, his wife, and his three children, James, Reena, and Darrell Evers, were home at the time of the assassination. Their son Darrell recalled the night vividly: "We were ready to greet him, because every time he came home it was special for us. He was traveling a lot at that time. All of a sudden, we heard a shot. We knew what it was". Darrell and the other children fled to the bathroom to hide in the bathtub. All three kids had been taught by their parents and forced to practice drills for safety prior to their father's death because of threats against him and two previous attacks on the house.
The White Citizens' Council was founded in 1954 following the United States Supreme Court's ruling that de jure public school segregation was unconstitutional. Begun in Mississippi, chapters arose in towns across the South among whites who wanted to resist integration. Their members used a variety of economic tactics to suppress black activism and sustain segregation. The councils applied severe pressure by boycotting black businesses, denying loans and credit to African Americans, firing people from their jobs, and other means. In Mississippi they prevented school integration until 1964. Although similar in nature to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the White Citizens' Council was perceived to be a more reputable association than the KKK because it lacked a historical reputation as a violent organization.
The state twice prosecuted De La Beckwith for murder in 1964, but both trials ended with hung juries. The jurors were all male and all white. Mississippi had effectively disenfranchised black voters since 1890, and they were excluded from serving on juries, whose members were drawn from voter rolls. During the second trial, the former Governor Ross Barnett interrupted the proceedings, shaking hands with De La Beckwith while Myrlie Evers, Medgar Evers' widow, was testifying.
In January 1966, De La Beckwith, along with a number of other members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify about Klan activities. Although De La Beckwith gave his name when asked by the committee (other witnesses, such as Samuel Bowers, invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to that question), he answered no other substantive questions. In the following years, De La Beckwith became a leader in the segregationist Phineas Priesthood, an offshoot of the white supremacist Christian Identity Movement. The group was known for its hostility towards African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and foreigners.
According to Delmar Dennis, who acted as a key witness for the prosecution at the 1994 trial, De La Beckwith boasted of his role in the death of Medgar Evers at several KKK rallies and similar gatherings in the years following his mistrials. In 1967, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party's nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi.
In 1969, Beckwith's previous charges were dismissed. In 1973, informants alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation that De La Beckwith planned to murder A.I. Botnick, director of the New Orleans-based B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, in retaliation for comments that Botnick had made about white Southerners and race relations. Following several days of surveillance, New Orleans Police Department officers stopped De La Beckwith as he was traveling by car on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge to New Orleans. Among the contents of his vehicle were several loaded firearms, a map with highlighted directions to Botnick's house, and a dynamite time bomb. On August 1, 1975, De La Beckwith was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder; he served nearly three years in the Angola Prison in Louisiana from May 1977 until he was paroled in January 1980. Just before entering prison to serve his sentence, De La Beckwith was ordained by Reverend Dewey "Buddy" Tucker as a minister in the Temple Memorial Baptist Church, a Christian Identity congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee.
In the 1980s, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger published reports on its investigation of De La Beckwith's trials in the 1960s. It found that the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a state agency supported by residents' taxes and purportedly protecting the image of the state, had assisted De La Beckwith's attorneys in his second trial. The Commission had worked against the civil rights movement in numerous ways. In this case, it used state resources to investigate members of the jury pool during voir dire so the defense could try to pick the best jury. The findings about the illegal role contributed to a retrial of De La Beckwith by the state in 1994.
Myrlie Evers, who would later become the third woman to chair the NAACP, refused to abandon her husband's case. When new documents showed that jurors in the previous case were illegally investigated and screened by a state agency, she pressed authorities to re-open the case. In the 1980s, the reporting by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger about the earlier Beckwith trials resulted in the state mounting a new investigation. It ultimately initiated a third prosecution, based on this and other new evidence.
By this time, De La Beckwith was living in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He was extradited to Mississippi for trial at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson. Before his trial, "Beckwith, a 71-year-old white supremacist, had asked the justices to dismiss the case against him on the grounds that it violated his rights to a speedy trial, due process and protection from double jeopardy." The court ruled against his motion by a 4 to 3 vote, and the case was scheduled to be heard in January 1994.
During this third trial, the murder weapon was presented, an Enfield .30-06 caliber rifle, with Beckwith's fingerprints. Beckwith claimed that the gun was stolen from his house. He listed his health problems, high blood pressure, lack of energy and kidney problems, saying "I need a list to recite everything I suffer from, and I hate to complain because I'm not the complaining type". The 1994 state trial was held before a jury consisting of eight blacks and four whites. They convicted De La Beckwith of first-degree murder for killing Medgar Evers. New evidence included testimony that he had boasted of the murder at a Klan rally, and that he had also boasted of the murder to others during the three decades since the crime had occurred. The physical evidence was essentially the same as that presented during the first two trials.
De La Beckwith appealed the guilty verdict, but the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1997. The court said that the 31-year lapse between the murder and De La Beckwith's conviction did not deny him a fair trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for first-degree murder without the possibility of parole. De La Beckwith sought judicial review in the United States Supreme Court, but it was denied certiorari.
On January 21, 2001, De La Beckwith died after he was transferred from prison to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. He was 80 years old. He had suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure, and other ailments for some time.
Adolph Ira "A. I." "B" Botnick (August 17, 1924 – October 5, 1995) was a Jewish activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Botnick often sought to minimize violence in race relations. Botnick was a target of an assassination plot by Byron De La Beckwith, who had previously assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The assassination was prevented when De La Beckwith was arrested for transporting a bomb across state lines.Botnick was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended Gulf Coast Military Academy and served in the army in World War II, and his unit fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Afterward, he graduated from Louisiana State University.
Botnick was recruited by the Anti-Defamation League in 1961 and took a position in their Atlanta, Georgia office. In 1964 he became the Anti-Defamation League's regional director for the region of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas and held this position until his retirement in 1992.
He died at the age of 71, leaving behind his wife, three children, and eight grandchildren.
He worked with the Anti-Defamation League and is the namesake for the Anti-Defamation League's annual A. I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Dinner.Beckwith
Beckwith may refer toBobby DeLaughter
Robert "Bobby" DeLaughter (born February 28, 1954) is an American Mississippi state prosecutor, judge, and author. He is notable for prosecuting and securing the conviction in 1994 of Byron De La Beckwith, charged with the murder of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963. Two earlier trials in Mississippi in 1964 had resulted in hung juries.Buddy Tucker
Dewey H. "Buddy" Tucker is an American minister from Dandridge, Tennessee, and former pastor of the "Temple Memorial Baptist Church" in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is a white nationalist, anti-Semitic, former Baptist and founder of the now defunct group "National Emancipation of our White Seed".
His activities have associated him with Christian Identity leaders and white supremacists such as Dan Gayman, Gerald L. K. Smith, Byron De La Beckwith, Richard Butler and Bertrand Comparet, along with groups that include the National States' Rights Party, and the Aryan Nations.Charles Evers
James Charles Evers (born September 11, 1922) is an American civil rights activist and former politician. A Republican, Evers was known for his role in the civil rights movement along with his younger brother Medgar Evers. He was made the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) State Voter Registration Chairman in 1954. After his brother's assassination in 1963, Evers took over his position as field director of the NAACP in Mississippi. As field director, Evers organized and led many demonstrations for the rights of African Americans.In 1969, Evers was named "Man of the Year" by the NAACP. On June 3, 1969, Evers was elected in Fayette, Mississippi, as the first African-American mayor of a biracial town in the state in the post-Reconstruction era, following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which enforced constitutional rights for citizens. (The town of Mound Bayou had been incorporated in 1898 as a Negro-only municipality and had had black mayors and council members throughout the 20th century; challenger Earl Lucas was elected the Mound Bayou mayor, defeating incumbent Wesley Liddell on the same day that Evers was elected in Fayette )
At the time of Evers's election as mayor, the town of Fayette had a population of 1,600 of which 75% was African-American and almost 25% White; the white officers on the Fayette city police "resigned rather than work under a black administrtion", according to the Associated Press. Evers told reporters "I guess we will just have to operate with an all-black police department for the present. But I am still looking for some whites to join us in helping Fayette grow." Evers then outlawed the carrying of firearms within city limits.He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1971 and the United States Senate in 1978, both times as an Independent candidate. In 1989, Evers was defeated for re-election after serving sixteen years as mayor.Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
The Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor is an annual award given by the Chicago Film Critics Association.Citizens' Councils
The Citizens' Councils (also referred to as White Citizens' Councils) were an associated network of white supremacist, extreme right organizations in the United States, concentrated in the South. The first was formed on July 11, 1954. After 1956, it was known as the Citizens' Councils of America. With about 60,000 members across the United States, mostly in the South, the groups were founded primarily to oppose racial integration of schools following the US Supreme Court ruling in 1954 that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. They also opposed voter registration efforts in the South, where most blacks had been disenfranchised since the turn of the 20th century, and integration of public facilities during the 1950s and 1960s. Members used intimidation tactics including economic boycotts, firing people from jobs, propaganda, and committing violence against citizens and civil-rights activists.
By the 1970s, following passage of federal civil rights legislation and its enforcement by the federal government, the influence of the Councils had waned considerably. The council's mailing lists and some of their board members found their way to the St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens, founded in 1985.Ghosts of Mississippi
Ghosts of Mississippi is a 1996 American biographical courtroom drama film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg and James Woods. The plot is based on the true story of the 1994 trial of Byron De La Beckwith, the white supremacist accused of the 1963 assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
James Woods was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role of Byron De La Beckwith. The original music score was composed by Marc Shaiman and the cinematography is by John Seale.Jerry Mitchell (investigative reporter)
Jerry W. Mitchell is an American investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger, a newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi. He convinced authorities to reopen seemingly cold murder cases from the Civil Rights Era, prompting one colleague to call him "the South's Simon Wiesenthal". In 2009, he received a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation.List of prison deaths
This is a list of notable people who have died in prison, whether actually in prison or in hospital while still serving a prison sentence. In alphabetical order, this list does not include inmates who were executed as punishment for their crimes. Most of them died from suicide.Medgar Evers
Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an African American civil rights activist in Mississippi, the state's field secretary of the NAACP, and World War II veteran, having served in the United States Army. He worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, to end segregation of public facilities, and to expand opportunities for African Americans, including enforcement of voting rights. He was assassinated by Byron de la Beckwith, a white supremacist and Klansman.
A college graduate, Evers became active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Following the 1954 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers challenged the segregation of the state-supported public University of Mississippi, applying to law school there. He also worked for voting rights, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and other changes in the segregated society. Evers was awarded the 1963 NAACP Spingarn Medal.
Evers was assassinated in 1963 by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens' Council. This group was formed in 1954 in Mississippi to resist the integration of schools and civil rights activism. As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests; his life and these events inspired numerous works of art, music, and film. All-white juries failed to reach verdicts in the first two trials of Beckwith in the 1960s. He was convicted in 1994 in a new state trial based on new evidence.
Medgar's widow, Myrlie Evers, became a noted activist in her own right, serving as national chair of the NAACP. His brother Charles Evers was the first African American to be elected as mayor of a city in Mississippi in the post-Reconstruction era; he won the office in 1969 in Fayette.Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission
The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (also called the Sov-Com) was a state agency which operated from 1956 to 1977. It was directed by governors of Mississippi. The stated objective of the commission was to "[...] protect the sovereignty of the state of Mississippi, and her sister states" from "encroachment thereon by the Federal Government". It coordinated activities to portray the state and racial segregation in a more positive light.
The agency was given unusual authority to investigate citizens of the state, issue subpoenas and even exercise police powers, although it was not attached to any law enforcement agency. During its existence, the commission profiled more than 87,000 persons associated with, or suspected to be associated with, the civil rights movement (which it opposed). It investigated the work and credit histories and even personal relations of persons it investigated. It collaborated with local white officials of government, police, and business to pressure African Americans to give up activism, especially by economic pressures, such as causing them to be fired, evicted from rental housing, or to have their businesses boycotted.National Emancipation of our White Seed
The National Emancipation of our White Seed party is a defunct extremist Christian Identity group founded and led by Reverend Dewey H "Buddy" Tucker in the early 1970s. It was officially Incorporated by Tucker in the State of Tennessee on April 12, 1976. The party's Christian Identity platform, which the core beliefs state that only the white race has souls, advocates Segregation, White Separatism, Racialism, Antisemitism, and Anti Taxation. Individuals and organizations that have aligned with the "National Emancipation of our White Seed" include the Ku Klux Klan, National States' Rights Party, Byron De La Beckwith, Richard Butler, and Dan Gayman.Only a Pawn in Their Game
"Only a Pawn in Their Game" is a song written by Bob Dylan about the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Showing support for the African Americans during the American Civil Rights Movement. It was released on Dylan's The Times They Are a-Changin' album of 1964. The song suggests that Evers' killer, Byron De La Beckwith does not bear sole blame for his crime, as he was only a pawn of rich white elites who incensed poor whites against blacks so as to distract them from their position on "the caboose of the train" in order create a more 'perfect white American society'.Paul Saltzman
Paul Saltzman is a two-time Canadian Emmy Award-winning film and television producer-director with more than 300 films, both dramas and documentaries, to his credit. The 2008 documentary feature, Prom Night in Mississippi, featuring actor Morgan Freeman, premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. His most recent film, the feature documentary, The Last White Knight—Is Reconciliation Possible? premiered at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2012. It features Morgan Freeman, Harry Belafonte, Delay de la Beckwith (son of Byron De La Beckwith) as well as Saltzman himself. He is also founder, CEO and president of the charitable, non-profit organization Moving Beyond Prejudice, which works with police forces, students, educators, youth-at-risk and community groups.Samuel Bowers
Samuel Holloway Bowers (August 25, 1924 – November 5, 2006) was a convicted murderer and leading white supremacist activist in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. In response to this movement, he co-founded the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and became a Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard,. Bowers committed two murders of civil rights activists in southern Mississippi: The 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner near Philadelphia, for which he served six years in federal prison; and the 1966 murder of Vernon Dahmer in Hattiesburg, for which he was sentenced to life in prison 32 years after the crime. He also was accused of bombings of Jewish targets in the cities of Jackson and Meridian in 1967 and 1968 (according to the man who was convicted of some of the bombings, Thomas A. Tarrants III). He died in prison at the age of 82.Service number (United States Marine Corps)
For other versions of United States military service numbers, see "Service number (United States armed forces)"United States Marine Corps service numbers were created in 1920, the same year as Navy service numbers, and were modeled after the same design.Sweet, Sweet Blues
"Sweet, Sweet Blues" is an award winning episode of the NBC drama series In the Heat of the Night, starring Carroll O'Connor as Chief Bill Gillespie and Howard Rollins as Detective Virgil Tibbs.In the Heat of the Night was based on the 1965 novel by John Ball, which was also the basis for the Academy Award winning film of the same name starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier, directed by Norman Jewison.Ti-Hua Chang
Ti-Hua Chang (born New York City) is a freelance reporter. A Chinese American, he is an award-winning broadcast journalist based in New York City from 1989 to the present.
He was most recently a freelance correspondent for the Weekend CBS Evening News. He was a general assignment and investigative reporter for WNYW, the FOX affiliate in New York. Before joining WCBS in 2005, Chang worked as a general assignment/investigative TV reporter at WNBC-TV. Prior to that, he was the host of his own talk show, New York Hotline on WNYC-TV. Chang also worked as an investigative producer at ABC News and as a reporter at WLOX in Biloxi, Mississippi, KYW-TV in Philadelphia, KUSA in Denver and WJBK in Detroit.
Chang is a native New Yorker, and grew up on the Upper West Side. He has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania (and a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (1977).In 1996, Chang won the George Foster Peabody Award for his news documentary “Passport to Kill”. The series of reports tracked suspected killers of children and cops who fled to the Dominican Republic, where they were protected by outdated extradition laws. The laws were changed. In 2006. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for a story on police using high-tech equipment to spy on an amorous couple. He is most proud of helping jail Byron De la Beckwith, the assassin of civil rights leader Medgar Evers 29 years after the heinous murder.
Chang is also the recipient of five Emmys, Press Association awards in Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit and New York, AP and UPI awards, and [Asian American Journalists Association]and National Association of Black Journalists ] awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from AAJA. An active figure in the Asian American community, he has previously served both on the national and local New York Board of Directors for the AAJA. Chang's writing has been published in the New York Times, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.In 2004 he was given an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from New York City College of Technology.