Byron de la Beckwith (1920
), known to his friends and Ku Klux Klan
buddies as "Deelay", was the vicious racist who killed Medgar Evers
, an assassination which was one of the most notorious events of the civil rights movement
Evers was the Mississippi field secretary
of the NAACP
. He was returning home to his wife and three children and had just pulled up into his driveway when Beckwith shot him in the back with a hunting rifle as he was getting out of his car. Beckwith was concealed behind some honeysuckle
vines and left his rifle there when he fled. He made little effort to conceal his crime and was easily traced through fingerprints and witnesses.
He was put on trial in 1964
twice, and twice all-male, all-white juries found him not guilty
. At the time, southern juries routinely let off white defendants who harmed blacks, and they were aided by plenty of people, including two police officers, who were willing to lie for Beckwith.
Following the trial, he hardly kept a low profile. With every person he would meet, it seemed like he bragged about it or threatened them with the murder he had committed. In 1967
, he ran for lieutenant governor
of Mississippi. He got 35,000 votes, finishing fifth out of six. In 1973
, he was stopped in New Orleans
and police found a dynamite
bomb in his car. It’s thought that he was on his way to kill a leader of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith
, an act for which he spent much of the 1970s in prison.
His third trial in 1994
is chronicled in the movie Ghosts of Mississippi
, well worth seeing. Courageous prosecutors ignored objections and retried Beckwith with the help of new evidence and three decades worth of witnesses to his bragging. Times had changed, and this time the jury was not lily white. A stunned Beckwith was convicted of murder and would spend the rest of his life in prison.
He died Sunday night, but the exact cause – thought to be heart disease
– has yet to be released to the public.
. Hope you enjoy the heat down there, motherfucker.