Civil Rights icon began career in Philadelphia – The Neshoba Democrat

Mississippi civil rights and political icon Charles Evers who died last month began his radio career at Philadelphia’s WHOC in the 1950s while working in his family-run funeral home business. Evers died July 22. He was 97.

After serving in World War II, Evers, a Decatur native, moved to Philadelphia in 1951 where he also operated a taxi service, a bootleg liquor business, and the Evers Hotel and Lounge, which featured Blues bands.

After the funeral home advertised on WHOC radio, station owner Howard Cole asked Evers to start hosting a show himself.

Evers played Blues records and also encouraged his African-American listeners to register to vote.

Segregationist threats to Charles Evers’ businesses and family in Philadelphia became so severe that he moved his family to Chicago in 1956 where he would get into radio and Blues promotions.

In 1963, his brother Medgar, field director of the NAACP in Jackson, was assassinated outside his home.

Born on Sept. 11, 1922, Charles Evers took over Medgar’s position after his brother’s death.

In 1961, he was elected mayor of Fayette and held that office until 1981. He was the state’s first black mayor since Reconstruction.

A longtime Republican, Evers most recently was the general manager of WMPR radio in Jackson where he used his voice to continue the struggle for equality.

Evers’ political influence stretched beyond mayor of Fayette. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971 and the Senate in 1978.

About his endorsement of President Donald J. Trump in 2016, Charles Evers told National Public Radio: “You know, my whole thing — to those who are listening — we have to stop thinking that black folks have to be all Democrats. We have a right to choose, and I happen to have been a Republican now for a long time. I’m supporting Trump because I think he is — firstly, he’s a businessman, and he can provide jobs for us. And that’s what I’m looking at.”

He was the advisor to politician legends such as Lyndon B. Johnson, George C. Wallace and Robert F. Kennedy.

He endorsed Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. He spoke warmly of Barack Obama in the 2008 election and was one of Mississippi’s six electoral votes for Donald Trump in 2016.

Throughout his career, Evers ran several businesses in Chicago and Mississippi and was a concert promoter with Blues legend B.B. King.

“I remember Evers worked for WHOC back in the early fifties,” said Joe Vines, the current owner of WHOC. “He was here in Neshoba and had his own talk show. He was also the first black to work here at the time. It was a big deal.”

Vines said he was able to meet Evers during one of his occasional drop-ins.

“Over the years Charles would stop in and say hello,” Vines said. “I was able to meet him that way. He was a really nice man, and very talented.”

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