Before we get to the birthdays, we need to discuss a death. Early in the morning 50 years ago today, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was assassinated by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. But that was not the first attempt on his life. Others had tried to run him over and fire bomb him. It is shocking that to this day he isn’t widely known outside the civil rights movement. In fact, Emmett Till is far better than known than he is, even though Evers was so important in getting out the story of Till’s torture and murder. But there can be no doubt of just how important and effective Medgar Evers was. Just look at the reaction he got from the Mississippi bigots.
Evers was shockingly young when he died: just under 38 years old. To provide a little context, his older brother (Republican civil rights spokesman) Charles Evers is soon to turn 91. So it is very possible that Medgar would still be with us. Meanwhile, his murderer, Beckwith, lived to be 80. He only spent 6 years in jail for the crime because it took 31 years to convict him when he was already 73 years old. Before that, he had been caught trying to plant a bomb at the home of a leader of the Anti-Defamation League. He was convicted of “transporting explosives without a permit.” What a justice system we have!
Here is this morning’s Democracy Now! segment on Medgar Evers:
On this day in 1929, Anne Frank was born. I think the enduring appeal of her diary is that it shows that life will go on regardless. There is a similar scene in Schindler’s List where a couple are getting married in the camp. Even when suffocated by evil, people still manage to hope.
The chess player Donald Byrne was born in 1930. He is best known for losing the so called “game of the century” to Bobby Fischer. I’ve always thought he showed very good sportsmanship for playing the game through long after he knew he had lost. Mostly, he underestimated the 13-year-old chess genius. The game is known for an amazing queen sacrifice by Fischer, but other than that, it isn’t that interesting a game. Fischer conspicuously ignored it in his My 60 Memorable Games. Byrne was a Master level player—one of the best Americans during his peak. In 1955, for example, while playing black, he beat one of the chess icons of the 20th century Efim Geller. Byrne was also an English professor. He died of lupus at the age of 45.
Geroge H. W. Bush is 89 today. I give him another year to live. He doesn’t look too good, but I figure he will make it to 90 and then move on to the undiscovered country. I think the same thing about Bob Dole. But he hits 90 next month, so don’t be surprised if he soon decides it’s just too embarrassing to continue to be a Republican icon in the modern world.
Jim Nabors is 83 today. I hope that married life is working out for him. I suspect that it is. Musician Chick Corea is 72. And John Linnell, of They Might Be Giants fame, and Scott Thompson, of Kids in the Hall fame, are both 54 today.
Out of respect for Medgar Evers, no one “wins” today.