“A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood,” as Bob Dylan tells it in “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” and while Evers certainly hasn’t been forgotten since he was gunned down in Mississippi in 1963, he’s hardly a household name.
Medgar Evers was back in the news over the weekend with the U.S. Navy’s christening, at San Diego, of the USNS Medgar Evers, a 689-foot, $500 million new dry cargo/ammunition ship. There were remarks by the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi. And by Medgar Evers’s widow, Myrlie, who said, “I will not have to go to bed ever again wondering whether anyone will remember who Medgar Evers is.”
To some it may seem incongruous to name a warship after a slain civil rights leader. But the more one learns about Evers, the more sense it makes. As Adam Nossiter writes in his book Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers, Evers earned medals for his World War II Army service in the Normandy invasion and the campaign in Northern France, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Your basic all-American hero, who died trying to make sure that the blessings of America were passed on to all Americans. Perfectly logical to me that they should name a great ship for him; now the rest of the world will see his name, and remember.