Home National news Medgar Evers, Rep. Clyburn, among 19 honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Medgar Evers, Rep. Clyburn, among 19 honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Joe Biden presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Congressman James E. Clyburn. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor that the president can bestow. The recipients “are the pinnacle of leadership in their fields,” the White House said in the statement (photo courtesy of DreamInColor Photo/NNPA).

President Joe Biden has awarded 19 individuals the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Civil rights icon Medgar Wiley Evers and South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn lead the list of recipients whose legacy of bravery and activism inspires generations.

Evers, born in 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi, is remembered for his unwavering dedication to the civil rights movement despite facing relentless racism and threats to his life. His childhood was marked by the pervasive specter of racism, with incidents like the lynching of a family friend serving as stark reminders of the injustice prevalent in the community. Determined to make a difference, Evers enlisted in the Army during World War II, serving with distinction in a segregated field battalion in England and France.

After returning from service, Evers earned a Bachelor of Arts from Alcorn College, where he met Myrlie Beasley, whom he married in 1951. He embarked on a career in activism, joining the NAACP and organizing boycotts and protests to combat segregation and discrimination. His efforts caught the attention of the NAACP national leadership, leading to his appointment as Mississippi’s first field secretary for the organization.

Evers also organized boycotts and advocated for the admission of African American students to the University of Mississippi. Despite facing constant threats and violence, Evers remained steadfast in his commitment to the cause of equality. A White supremacist assassinated Evers on June 12, 1963, outside his home, sparking outrage and galvanizing the civil rights movement.

Clyburn, a stalwart figure in American politics known as the ‘kingmaker,’ has dedicated his life to public service and advocacy. Representing South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Clyburn has served since 1993, making history as the first African American to hold multiple terms as Majority Whip. A South Carolina State University graduate, he began his career as a public school teacher in Charleston before assuming roles as an employment counselor and director of youth and community development programs.

Clyburn’s foray into state government, serving as South Carolina Human Affairs Commissioner, marked a significant milestone in his career. He became the first African American advisor to a South Carolina governor. His transition to federal politics in 1993 heralded a new chapter of leadership, as he became chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

Clyburn has earned numerous accolades and honors, including the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. His pivotal endorsement of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race is widely credited with shaping the course of the election, propelling Biden to victory in crucial primaries and ultimately to the presidency.

“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) joins all Americans to salute the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award recipients at the White House,” NNPA President/CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. said. “The Biden-Harris administration continues to lead America forward toward freedom, justice and equality for all. The NNPA takes special note and salutes Congressman Clyburn and Medgar Evers for their outstanding and transformative courage and leadership in the ongoing freedom movement for civil and human rights. The Black Press of America extends heartfelt congratulations to Clyburn, Evers, and all who are being honored today.”

Among the recipients joining Evers and Clyburn are:

Michael R. Bloomberg,former mayor of New York City, revolutionized the financial information industry and significantly impacted various sectors, including education, the environment, public health and the arts.

Father Gregory Boyle,the founder of Homeboy Industries, has dedicated his life to gang intervention and rehabilitation, offering hope and opportunities to thousands in Los Angeles.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a trailblazing leader who has served in various government roles including the United States Senate and president of the American Red Cross, has steadfastly advocated for military caregivers and their families.

Phil Donahue, a pioneering journalist, revolutionized daytime television with his issue-oriented talk show, setting a new standard for engagement and discourse.

Al Gore, former U.S. vice president, has been a prominent figure in climate activism and global diplomacy, earning recognition for his efforts to address climate change.

Clarence B. Jones,a civil rights activist and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. played a pivotal role in shaping the civil rights movement and preserving Dr. King’s legacy.

U.S. Secretary John Kerry, a decorated veteran and former U.S. ‘secretary of state,’ has dedicated his life to public service, championing diplomacy and environmental stewardship.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, remembered for his extensive service in the United States Senate and advocacy for environmental protection and consumer safety, is honored posthumously.

Katie Ledecky, the most decorated female swimmer in history, has captivated audiences with her remarkable athleticism and achievements in the pool.

Opal Lee, an educator, and activist played a crucial role in making Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. This symbolized a triumph in the ongoing struggle for equality.

Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, continues to inspire future generations as a leading figure in science and exploration.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime advocate for democracy and progressive values, has been instrumental in shaping legislative agendas and Democratic priorities.

Dr. Jane Rigby, a prominent astronomer, embodies the spirit of exploration and discovery, contributing to our understanding of the universe.

Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers, has been a tireless advocate for the rights of agricultural workers, securing important victories that have improved their lives.

Judy Shepard,co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, has been a driving force in the fight against hate crimes, fostering progress and understanding.

Jim Thorpe, the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal, broke barriers in sports and society, leaving an enduring legacy as an athlete and advocate.

Michelle Yeoh, an acclaimed actress, has broken stereotypes and enriched American culture through her groundbreaking work in film.

“There is nothing beyond our capacity when we act together,” Biden said. “These 19 Americans built teams, coalitions, movements, organizations, and businesses that shaped America for the better. They are the pinnacle of leadership in their fields. They consistently demonstrated over their careers the power of community, hard work, and service.”

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