* Code added to make Google search more likely. Mississippi Civil Rights--One Man, One Story: Charles Evers--A Complicated Man

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Charles Evers--A Complicated Man

Yesterday we had a newspaper article from May, 1965 relating to the beginning of the Jackson Head Start program. Tomorrow we will have a letter from May, 1966 in which Charles Evers states "the only way this program (Head Start) will continue is over my dead body". This might be an unneccesary detour, but I thought I'd seperate the two posts with a post about Charles Evers.

Let me start out by saying that I believe Charles Evers has done a lot of good for the state of Mississippi. He has definitely led a very diverse life with more than his fair share of controversies. I have the feeling that being a hustler is part of his makeup that served him well in Chicago and also on his return to Mississippi, but that might have been the trait most needed to get things done. I read the Charles Evers transcript from the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archives and I must admit that it sounds to me like a politician in ultra-spin mode, but you can read it for yourself and see what you think. Listed below is one question and answer from the interview, done on December 3, 1971, that ties into the letter that I'll post tomorrow:

Dr. Smith (interviewer): Obviously, one element in your campaign strategy was the forging of a poor white-poor black, poor folks coalition. Do you think this will ever come about really?

Mr. Evers: Oh yes, I was telling about this union I'm getting. I'm going down into different kinds of issues now, and continue to work on the former [ones]. You see, whites are not involved in this Headstart [program], not involved in these poverty programs. The poverty programs are for poor folks. Hell, they ain't got to be black or white, just poor folks! I'm going to try the rest of these next few years to help them get involved, help them to get a program that they can run themselves. For instance, out in Green County, Mississippi, and down around McLain, there's some poor white folks - down there, man they need help and I'm going to go down there, not as a politician, but as a person who cares about the people and seeing them do better. I know the more people you can have eating good, sleeping good, and living good, the less friction we are going to have from somebody, the less possibility we have of somebody burning somebody [else's] house or wanting to shoot somebody cause somebody passed by and winked their eye at their wife or girl. Who cares? I don't care who winked at my wife, what [should] I care as long as she doesn't wink back? You know, I can think like that because I'm free, and we've got a freer mind than many whites; I think, and what makes you really free in this country is security.


As a bonus to end this post, here is a non-Head Start related question and answer, and I have to give Charles Evers credit for a very forward thinking idea that he brought up when he ran for governor in 1971. It's an idea where he seemed to be a couple of decades ahead of the curve:

Dr. Smith: Some of the issues that you raised in the campaign were kind of unusual for Mississippi, to say the least, things like legalized gambling. In retrospect do you think that hurt you or - [interrupted]

Mr. Evers: Maybe. But, I think, again I was trying to be honest and I would still say I would rather have legalized gambling than have unauthorized gambling, and yet it is going on. Legalized gambling would replace thousands [and] thousands of tax dollars we are now being assessed. I look at it from the economical standpoint, from just being practical. The Gulf Coast is so natural for recreation and for tourists, a natural, and all we've got to do is get people in there thinking constructive and ahead. We need legalized horse racing. In Mississippi, we need off-track betting like we have in New York. This is something the people do anyway. We need places where you can go in and play slot machines [and] play roulette. We need that cause so many of us have not only lost our lives [and] lost millions of dollars going out to Las Vegas [or] going on down to the Bahamas [and] spending money we never see anymore. Now, all I'm saying [is] I think we've got to learn in this state to provide for those who want to indulge, period. Why not? Why shouldn't we, because the same ones who holler and scream loudest go right to Las Vegas and spend thousands of dollars. So my argument [is] why shouldn't we do it on the Gulf Coast and get that tax money off and put it to better schools, better roads, a better old folks home, a home for the underprivileged boys and girls, recreation, decent welfare for those who need it, not for those who are just on there, Medicare, medical care like we've done here in Fayette? Now we have twelve cars out there, six cars and six wagons, to go pick up people to bring them to help [those] who are sick. As I said, we just got another 49 some thousand dollars; we went out the other day to carry medical care into the community where people were not able to come out, where there has been a tornado or storm or something [else] like this, and they are lying flat and not able to go to the hospital. There are a million dollars; we can take that money and do this with it. See my argument?

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