Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Sid Salter: Charles Evers Was a Walking Contradiction

Charles Evers, who died last week at the age of 97, changed Mississippi politics in ways that are profound and enduring. Yet Evers was for most of his life a walking contradiction in both his public and private lives.

Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King – with whom Evers later worked – were perceived as spiritual leaders who sought justice on the strength of ideals. But Charles Evers was a street fighter, who demanded a piece of the American pie and was willing to do whatever he had to do to get it.

Born in Decatur in Newton County in 1922, Evers served in the U.S. Army in both World War II and the Korean Conflict. A 1950 graduate of Alcorn A&M, Evers would move to Philadelphia in Neshoba County in 1951. There, he worked in a funeral home, ran a taxi, was a bootlegger, operated a juke joint café, and an adjacent hotel.

Evers got his start in radio at WHOC-AM, the same 1,000-watt station owned and operated by pioneering Mississippi broadcaster William Howard Cole, the same courageous white WWII combat veteran who gave me my first job in radio years later. Evers played blues records on the air and used the forum to encourage black listeners to register to vote.

By 1956, Evers said segregationists put enough heat on the Cole family and on him and his family that Evers departed Philadelphia for Chicago. The Chicago years saw Evers do what he had always done – make a buck any way he could.

“I was a bathroom attendant at the Conrad Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue,” Evers told me in an interview. “White men were always asking me to help them find black women, prostitutes and otherwise, so I did. From there, I also ran the numbers for the Mob and sold whiskey, just like I had in Mississippi.”

But on June 12, 1963, Charles Evers saw his life change when his younger brother Medgar Evers – the charismatic field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP – was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson home on June 12, 1963, by segregationist zealot Byron De La Beckwith.

Charles Evers said his brother’s murder ended his proclivities toward making a living through vice and set his sights on civil rights and social justice. He succeeded his brother as field secretary of the NAACP. In that role, Charles Evers would rub shoulders with President John F. Kennedy and King.

Months later in 1963, Kennedy was assassinated – and Evers found lifetime allies in the slain president’s brothers, Robert, and Edward Kennedy. “They lost a brother like I lost a brother,” Evers said.

Evers used economic boycotts to rally blacks to register to vote and to impose the will of black customers in Mississippi towns for jobs and equal treatment in the 1960s. He turned state politics on its head in 1968 when he ran for the U.S. House – winning the Democratic first primary before losing the runoff to white contender Charles Griffin.

He pivoted in 1969 to a run for mayor of Fayette as a Democrat, which he won over a white incumbent. Evers served as mayor of Fayette from 1969 to 1981, was defeated for one term, then was elected to a fourth term from 1985-89.

In 1978, the battle to choose a successor to legendary Mississippi U.S. Sen. James O. “Big Jim” Eastland saw then-Republican 4th District U.S. Rep. Thad Cochran turn back the challenge of Democrat Maurice Dantin of Columbia and Evers running as an independent. Dantin was the hand-picked candidate of the dying Eastland political machine.

A lifelong Democrat until the mid-1970s, Evers left the party over complaints that state Democrats took African American voters “for granted” without rewarding their loyalty with a sharing of power. Cochran won the general election with a 45 percent plurality of the vote, trailed by Dantin with 32 percent and Evers with 23 percent.

Evers ran for governor as an independent in 1983 against eventual winner Democrat Bill Allain and Republican Leon Bramlett.

Charles Evers brought political opportunity to black voters by helping break the stranglehold that whites had on the Democratic Party in the state – then spent the rest of his life as an avowed Republican. President Donald Trump tweeted his sympathies at Evers’ passing.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Another Wikipedia gem from Sid!

Anonymous said...

Evers may have changed saddles but he never changed horses. He was as corrupt as a mayor as he was pimping and selling whiskey, but made less at it later on. He was just slicker at it later and knew the game better than his perceived opponent.

As mayor of Fayette he pissed off some people, but he curried favor with more. He understood the art of the deal and the leverage of his image. Some were afraid of him, some adored him, some disrespected or ignored him, to their eventual peril. He could pick up a phone and call anybody in the country. I don't think he used race as a 'crutch', which was a departure from the popular device.

I knew him and had business dealings with him in '75. He was charismatic, charming, cantankerous and deceptive. He always remembered you, whether he really did or not. And he had a great hand-shake and smile. I'm not putting the man down or speaking of him pejoratively or disrespectfully. He was a true success story and usually accomplished his objectives - much like Trump. To some degree, the two used the same play-book.

I didn't know Medgar, whose middle name was Wiley. But, I did know Charles, whose middle name should have been Wily.

Rest In Peace, Sir.

Anonymous said...

Met him while on Staff at the VA. Was always a great talker and I remember sitting with him at length talking about family and military. I pray he and his family is at peace.

Anonymous said...

Who cares. We canonize civil rights leaders and their relatives, while our cities look like third world war zones.

The proof is in the pudding.
-Bill Cosby (convicted rapist)

Anonymous said...

Living to age 97 is an accomplishment in itself.

Anonymous said...

10:02, I care and a lot of others do. He was a fascinating person if you ever met him.

Anonymous said...

There was nothing so contradictory about Charles Evers. If anything he was consistently a pragmatist. People who dream of pie in the sky or await some saintly hero to carry the torch will probably see Charles as a less than heroic figure. He wasn't trying to be heroic, he was trying to get the job done. That's his life, getting it done in spite of the obstacles, and you can't appraise Charles Evers without first understanding the obstacles. He
got the job done. He overcame more than most people imagine. He was quite
a man.

Going going gone said...

Sold to the highest bidder

Anonymous said...

" There was nothing so contradictory about Charles Evers. If anything he was consistently a pragmatist.
He was quite a man. "

Very well said 11:39.

We need more pragmatists in today's world.
Prayers to his family !

Mr. Evers invited my Father (a white man) on his radio show when my Dad was running for an elective office during the late 1980's.

Although apprehensive at first, Dad said that was the best interview of his campaign.

By the way . . . 8:46 said:

" Another Wikipedia gem from Sid! "

That is too funny 8:46 !
Sid's "article" did sound like a hastily written wiki entry.

I Saw Willie Morris Eat A Snake said...

One thing about being a journalist...You can always make up something you claim a dead man told you and you'll never be proven wrong. Say it when he's alive and you'll be called out. Other than Rick Cleveland, Salter is better at that than anybody alive.

I remember the time, sitting by an outdoor fire with Eudora Welty, she was sipping Hiram Walker out of a red tumbler and told me she had seen a flying saucer in 1964 while walking in Greenwood Cemetery. Who's gonna disprove that?

Anonymous said...

Is this the whole column? The title says “. . . A Walking Contradiction”, yet the article reads like a highly edited bio -- nothing more than a junior high school homework assignment. I am disappointed in the writer’s effort.

Anonymous said...

Don’t have anything negative to say about the man. I’m glad he lived as long as he did for that matter. He was an asset. I worked in Natchez and would drive from Jackson to Natchez and pass his home. As I said, I can’t say a thing wrong about the man Let him lie in peace. Can any of you say you haven’t done wrong? We are all sinners. Move on and do better as he would wish you to do. White republican, middle aged and sick of the shit going on. We don’t need any more of it. Let’s do better.

Anonymous said...

Sip'n bourbon with Miss Welty in Greenwood Cemetery would be too cool.

(Almost as cool as drinking with
Faulkner at Rowan Oak)

Nothing personal against Sid, but I much prefer Robert St. John.

Salter never includes any recipes in his columns.

Anonymous said...

Sid's articles, as well as those of both of the Cleveland boys are always eventually self-centered.

11:39 - We all think we're pragmatists, whether we've ever heard the word or not.

Suscribe to latest on JJ.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS