Delta Airlines and the Evers Family
Leading up to this year’s Power to Inspire, The Center has facilitated several interviews with Reena Evers-Everette, Executive Director of The Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute and daughter of PTI honoree Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams and late civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Below Evers-Everette graciously shares how Delta Airlines aided her family in a time of great need.
Reena Evers-Everette flew for the first time at age 9, just a week after her father, Medgar Evers, was shot and killed outside their home on June 12, 1963. Her mother, Myrlie Evers-Williams, and local civil rights activists tried frantically to secure a flight to Washington, DC. Medgar Evers – a former U.S. Army sergeant and World War II veteran – was to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.
In the segregated South, Delta was the only airline in Jackson, Mississippi, that offered to fly the Evers family, according to Evers-Everette.
“My father and mother had previously flown on Delta to New York or California for conferences and business,” said Evers-Everette. “Delta was the airline of the South, period.”
On June 19, a Delta plane took off from Hawkins Field and brought the Evers family safely and quickly to Washington, DC.
“It was a scary but exciting time to step onto a plane,” said Evers-Everette. “I noticed the Delta agents were all white. They were courteous, respectful, and worked as best they could, given the tragic circumstances, to make the flight a positive experience for me and my brother. The pilot came out to meet my family.”
Understanding the urgency of bringing the Evers family together, Delta was the only airline that allowed Medgar’s older brother, Charles, also a civil rights activist, to quickly board a plane from Chicago to DC.
Delta returned the Evers family to Mississippi and Illinois. In the years since, the Evers family has maintained a strong relationship with the airline, often flying Delta for the family’s annual trip to visit Medgar’s grave in Arlington, and for business. Delta also supported the Evers family as they continued their advocacy for justice.
“When my mother became the NAACP’s board chair, Delta was a big contributor to the organization,” said Evers-Everette.
Although she eventually had a 32-year career with United Airlines, Evers-Everette says Delta remains special to her and her family.
“It is with profound gratitude that I convey my appreciation of their respect at such a difficult time when that (spirit) was uncommon between races to provide that in my and my family’s life. We have seen Delta repeatedly demonstrate its integrity throughout the decades. Thank you, Delta, for always having the best for each customer that comes into your service.”