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Monday December 22, 2014

Myrlie Evers-Williams

Posted on: August 1st, 2014

Named First Our Mississippi Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Civil rights icon, Myrlie Evers-Williams was recently named the first Our Mississippi Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Ms. Evers-Williams was recognized at the ourMississippi Honors Gala this past spring in Tupelo, Mississippi.

“I’m almost speechless,” Ms. Evers-Williams told the overflow crowd. “I don’t know when I’ve been so moved through the years of my life as I have been this evening. A special thanks to all the people in this room, in which all of you are. Your faith in me tonight, in giving me this award, of being the first, I accept it humbly, I accept it gratefully, and I love you all.”

Naming Ms. Evers-Williams as the first recipient of the award was an easy decision said event chairman, Wesley Wells.

Myrtle Evers-Williams

“That was the easiest decision we had to make regarding the whole gala,” Wells said. She (Evers-Williams) has given so much of herself to make this state better, and she continues to do so. We are honored to salute her tonight.”

Ms. Evers-Williams, who just recently turned 81-years old, told the crowd she will continue the fight for justice as long as she is able.

“It’s been a good life. It’s been a blessed life,” she said. “Whatever time I have left, I intend to be in there fighting, scratching and kicking to helping keep all the goodness going.”

Myrlie Evers-Williams Bio

“Any serious discussion of the civil rights movement’s future must deal with at least four moral and organizational imperatives—stewardship, inclusiveness, concern for the disadvantaged, and re-dedication to non-violence as both ethical and effective tools for struggle.”

It was February1995.   With these words Myrlie Evers began her legendary tenure as chairman of the NAACP after defeating the incumbent by one vote.

The NAACP was in disrepair and plagued with financial difficulties, scandal and controversy.  Ms. Evers’ positive reputation among civil rights activists made her election a cause for renewed optimism among NAACP supporters. Through her unwavering vision as a leader and with determined spirit, she is credited with spearheading the operations that restored the Association to its original status as the premier civil rights organization in America.

She became the first elected chairman-emeritus of the NAACP in 1998 when she retired to establish the Medgar Evers Institute, linking business, government, and communities to further human rights and equality.  Today, she serves as the chairman

Myrlie Evers is perhaps best remembered as the widow of Medgar Evers, the Mississippi state field secretary for the NAACP who in 1963 was gunned down in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi.  She waged a painstaking battle to keep her husband’s memory and dreams alive and valiantly lobbied to bring his killer to justice. Her diligence eventually paid off when the assassin was brought to trial for a third time and finally, in 1994, was found guilty of the murder of Medgar Evers, more than 30 years after the crime.

Always a voter-registration activist, Evers became a candidate to represent the 24th Congressional District of California in 1970.  She went on to become the first black woman to head the Southern California Democratic Women’s Division and was convener of the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Her corporate career began in 1973 with a two year term with the New York firm, Selligman and Latz, Inc. where she held the position of vice president for advertising and publicity.  For 10 years Evers-Williams worked for Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), serving first as the national director for community affairs, and later as director, consumer affairs.  During her tenure at ARCO she developed the concept for the first corporate booklet on women in non-traditional jobs, “Women at ARCO”.

In 1988, she was the first black woman to be named to the five-member Board of Public Works by Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, where she helped oversee a budget of nearly $1 billion.

As an author, Myrlie Evers Williams has captured the work and historical significance of the civil rights movement through several publications chronicling the life of Medgar Evers.  In 1967, she co-wrote For Us, the Living, with William Peters; and in 2006, with co-author Manning Marable, she penned The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters and Speeches.

In 1999, she published her personal memoirs, Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be, which charts her journey from being the wife of an activist to becoming a community leader in her own right.

In addition to holding 16 honorary degrees from leading colleges and universities, Evers is a recipient of numerous civil rights, human rights and community awards.  Her governance expertise has been recognized by national and international organizations.  In 2007, as NAACP chairman-emeritus,  she led a delegation to Paris France to present the Conseil Representatifs des Associations Noires (CRAN) with a recognition award in support of  its efforts to achieve racial equality and social justice for black Frenchmen and women. She has been the featured keynote speaker for renowned organizations such as the Milken Institute and TEDx.   Augmenting her social justice advocacy work, she remains an often sought after lecturer at colleges and universities.

In January 2012, Myrlie Evers was invited to return to the campus of Alcorn State University in Mississippi, where she is distinguished scholar-in-residence.

Balancing her passion for justice and equality with her love and training for music, her diverse talent was highlighted in a special invitational concert series at Carnegie Hall in December 2012.

In January 2013, President Barack Obama selected Myrlie Evers to deliver the invocation during his second Inauguration, making her the first woman and lay person to have the honor.

Today, Myrlie Evers serves as the chairman of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute (MMEI) and continues the mission of championing civil rights with a focus on history, reconciliation, and education for a new generation of leaders.