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Charles Evers took up the mantle left behind the tragic killing of his younger brother Medgar Evers in 1963, carving out his own path in the fight for civil rights. Evers, who was the first Black mayor in the state of Mississippi, celebrates a birthday today.

James Charles Evers was born on this day in 1922 in Decatur, Miss. The Alcorn State University and World War II Army veteran dabbled in some small-time crime ventures such as bootlegging and even prostitution while living in Chicago, but was thrust into the civil rights movement with the June 1963 assassination of his brother, who was gunned down in front of his home by a member of the KKK.

Medgar Evers was the field director for the NAACP in Mississippi, making significant progress in the fight for voter rights and racial equality much to the dismay of local Klan members and segregationists. His older brother returned to his home state after his brother’s death and took over the NAACP position with positive results.

After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Evers immersed himself deeper into politics and in 1969, he was elected as mayor of Fayette. Evers remained in politics, making an unsuccessful run for state governor in 1971, and another failed bid for the United States Senate in 1978.

In 1978, Evers switched from independent and joined the Republican Party, supporting President Ronald Reagan and President H.W. Bush publicly. However in 2009, Evers praised the presidency of Barack Obama in a break with his party. Yet, as Donald Trump surged in the polls in 2016 ahead of being elected president,  Evers threw his support behind the business mogul.

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