Civil rights activist receives U of I award
Myrlie Evers, a civil rights leader who spent three decades seeking justice for her husband’s assassin and a lifetime promoting racial equality, will receive the University of Illinois Presidential Award and Medallion during a ceremony Wednesday on the Urbana campus.
Evers, the widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers and the first woman to chair the NAACP, joins 17 other medallion winners since the award program was created in 1984 to recognize individuals whose lives have had a profound impact on the university.
President Robert Easter said Evers has helped lift society and open doors of opportunity during more than a half-century as one of the nation’s leading voices for diversity, fairness and social justice.
“Dr. Evers’ vision, courage and perseverance are an inspiration for us all,” Easter said. “Even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, her ideals and belief in what is best for society never wavered. At the U of I, we share her commitment and thank her for her tireless service.”
Evers has been involved in the civil rights movement since the 1950s, working alongside her husband when he became the Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After he was assassinated 1963 and his accused killer was freed in two mistrials she kept case alive for more than 30 years, leading to a conviction in 1994.
She continued her active role in the NAACP, serving as the first woman to chair the organization from 1995 to 1998. After leaving the post, she established the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute in Jackson, Miss., an independent educational center dedicated to their lives.
In 2012, she joined the faculty of her late husband’s alma mater, Alcorn State University, where she is finalizing programs to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death.
Last month, she delivered the invocation at President Obama’s second inauguration, an honor she received in recognition of her lifetime advocacy for civil rights.
Evers will receive the Presidential Award and Medallion during a ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Foellinger Hall in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, where she will deliver the keynote address for acommemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The University of Illinois is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 77,000 students, nearly 23,000 faculty and staff, and campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.