Legacy

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy www.goodreads.com

The sentence was life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Byron de la Beckwith was 74 years old.  Normally, they would have shipped him off to Mississippi State Penitentiary, which was Mississippi’s only maximum security prison.  Once upon a time it had been called Parchman Farm.  But because of who he was and what he had done, Delay would have been dead in no time at all.  So they didn’t send him there.  Instead, he would be held in the Hinds County Jail for the rest of his life.   

Delay filed an appeal.  The basis of the appeal was that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial.  The contention was that undergoing a third trial for the same murder – thirty-one years later – could in no way be interpreted as speedy.  The appeal was overturned, as there was no statute of limitations for the crime of murder.

Seven years later, on January 21, 2001, Delay died.  At the time of his death, he was in the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.  He was being treated for heart disease and high blood pressure. 

The only legacy Delay left behind was the exaltation of hate.

Medgar Evers left behind a different kind of legacy – one of compassion, tolerance and service.

After the second mistrial, Myrlie Evers – the widow of Medgar Evers – moved her family to Claremont, California, which was just south of Los Angeles.  She enrolled in Claremont College.  In 1967, she published her memoir For Us, The Living.  The title came from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Then in 1968, Myrlie Evers graduated with a BA in sociology.

She became the Democratic candidate for a congressional seat from southern California in 1970.  Losing heavily in the Republican districts, she still managed to gain 38 percent of the vote.  It was not enough to win.  She took a job in public relations and later became vice president for advertising and publicity at Atlantic Richfield. 

In 1987, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley appointed her to the position of commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, where she helped supervise 6000 employees and administered half a billion dollars.  She served as a commissioner for five years. 

She married Walter Williams, who was a union organizer and civil rights activist.  Eventually, the couple moved to Oregon.  Several months after Byron de la Beckwith was finally convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Myrlie was elected chair of the board of the NAACP.

Medgar Evers’ children grew up in southern California and went on to lead triumphant lives.  Darrell became a successful artist.  Reena married, had children and worked for an airline.  Van became a noted photographer.