In 1943, when Evers was 17, he dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Army. He served in the 325th Port Company, a segregated, all-Black unit tasked with unloading weapons, vehicles and supplies from transport ships. His unit took part in the famed Red Ball Express, which kept Allied units supplied following the successful Allied invasion at Normandy. Evers saw action in Liège and Antwerp, Belgium; and Normandy, Le Havre and Cherbourg, France. He was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant in 1946.
Evers went on to attend what is now Alcorn State University, obtaining a degree in business administration in 1952. There, he met his wife Myrlie Evers-Williams, a future civil rights leader who would become chairwoman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) board of directors from 1995 to 1998. After graduating, Evers worked as a traveling salesman for an insurance company.
After traveling through impoverished Black communities in Mississippi for work, Evers was inspired to become an active volunteer with the local NAACP in Mississippi. With the NAACP, he coordinated boycotts against gasoline stations that denied African Americans access to their restrooms. Evers continued to take an active role in organizing and public activism, gaining the attention of national NAACP leaders and becoming Mississippi’s first field secretary for the organization.
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