Written By: Ben Cosgrove
It was not until 1994 that Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist and long-time Klan member then age 74, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1963 killing of civil rights activist and U.S. Army veteran, Medgar Evers. De La Beckwith had been tried decades earlier for his horrific crime—he shot Evers in the back, with a rifle, as Evers stood in the driveway of his Jackson, Miss., home—but two trials ended in hung juries. When De La Beckwith was finally held accountable, Evers’ widow Myrlie, who had fought for justice for her husband for more than 30 years, felt she might finally be free of the anger and hate she had borne for so long. Her words upon hearing the verdict? “Yes, Medgar!”
Here, LIFE.com presents a series of photographs by John Loengard, including one that remains among the most stirring of the Civil Rights era: a portrait of a dignified, deeply grieving Myrlie Evers comforting her weeping son, Darrell Kenyatta, at Evers’ funeral
Evers killing was just at the start of the pattern of domestic terrorism that would, in some ways, define the era—the murders of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and others had not yet occurred. The daylight killing of a man of Evers’ stature and significance was appalling. Although to the Evers family and to those on the front lines, not unforeseen, “We all knew the danger was increasing,” Myrlie Evers wrote in the June 28, 1963 edition of LIFE. “Threats came daily, cruel and cold and constant, against us and the children. But we had lived with this hatred for years and we did not let it corrode us.”
Medgar Evers was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on June 19, 1963.