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Byron De La Beckwith, Sr. Letters

 Collection
Identifier: M525

Scope and Contents

This one folder collection contains two handwritten letters to Byron De La Beckwith, Jr. from his father, Byron De La Beckwith, Sr. The letters were written from the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield, Mississippi, where Beckwith, Sr. was confined for observation in 1963.

The letters discuss Beckwith’s situation and his concerns for his son’s future. Another letter is from the Mississippi State Hospital to Mrs. Mary Williams Beckwith, wife of Byron De La Beckwith, Sr. The letter deals with the hospital’s policy regarding reimbursement for its services. Lastly, there is a two-page document titled “A Delta Discussion, Issue VII.” This document, which discusses racial issues was purportedly generated by the Ku Klux Klan, and is addressed to the Citizens of Greenwood, Mississippi and the surrounding area.

Dates

  • 1963; undated

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Byron De La Beckwith was born on November 9, 1920 in Colusa, California. In 1926, his father passed away, and his mother decided to move back to her hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi. A few years later, his mother passed away, and he stayed in the area with relatives.

After a failed attempt at college, he decided to join the U.S. Marines during the Second World War. He fought in the South Pacific and was the recipient of a Purple Heart. He was married soon after the war ended and had a son the following year in 1946. He also joined the Ku Klux Klan and the Citizens’ Council.

Medgar Evers, a well-known spokesperson for racial equality and member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was one of Beckwith’s worst fears. On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was standing in his driveway with an arm full of “Jim Crow Must Go” t-shirts. Byron De La Beckwith, hiding behind some honey suckle vines, shot Medgar Evers in the back with high-powered hunting rifle. Evers managed to drag himself to the steps of the house where his wife, Myrlie Evers, found him severely wounded.

Mr. Beckwith was connected to the murder. The rifle was left at the scene, which had his fingerprints on it. Additionally, quite a few eyewitnesses saw a man that resembled Byron De La Beckwith, and his car, a white Plymouth Valiant, was also seen in the area, although Beckwith claimed that his rifle was stolen and two police officers saw him in Greenwood, approximately 95 miles away, the day of the killing. However, there was enough evidence to convict Beckwith, and he was arrested.

In 1964, Byron De La Beckwith went to trial. A verdict was not reached and a retrial was set for later in the year. Unfortunately, the jury was unable to reach a decision. Both trials consisted of an all-white man jury.

Three decades later Beckwith had another trial. With new prosecutors and investigators looking at old and new evidence, the jury of four whites and eight blacks found Byron De La Beckwith guilty on February 5, 1994.

On July 21, 2001, Byron De La Beckwith passed away at the age of 80 due to heart failure at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. On January 27, 2001, he was buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Extent

1 Folder : 302A.B1.A3

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

Material from the Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield, Mississippi, where B. Beckwith, Sr. was confined for observation in 1963, in connection with his trial for the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in chronological order.

Two Handwritten Letters to Byron De La Beckwith, Jr. from His Father; a Letter from the Mississippi State Hospital to Mrs. Mary Williams Beckwith; and a Two-Page Document Entitled “A Delta Discussion, Issue VII”

Provenance

Byron De La Beckwith, Sr.

Given By: Charles Chatham, via Dr. Robert M. Press

Related Materials

M99 Citizen's Council/Civil Rights Collection

M250 Dahmer (Vernon F.) Collection

M319 Erle E. Johnston, Jr. Papers

M334 Wade (Daisy Harris) Papers

M365 Ben-Ami (Rabbi David Z.) Papers

M410 Helfrich (Robert B.) Papers

Stevens (M. James) Mississippi and Gulf Coast Research Collection
Title
Byron De La Beckwith, Sr. Letters
Author
Collection processed and finding aid written by Shawna Guidry.
Date
October 31, 2018
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

Contact:
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