OF LONG MEMORY by Adam Nossiter


Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers
Email this review


 The conviction earlier this year of Byron de la Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers provides a timeliness to this well- researched, fluidly written, and thoughtful book. A Jewish Yankee, Nossiter seems an unlikely chronicler of the lives of black civil rights Mississippian Evers; the racist murderer de la Beckwith; the original prosecutor of the murder, Bill Waller, who later became Mississippi's governor; Evers's mercurial, radical brother Charles; and Bobby DeLaughter, the prosecutor who finally obtained a conviction of de la Beckwith after two mistrials. Nossiter covered Mississippi in general and the case in particular for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and indeed, Nossiter and Mississippi are central characters in this book. In many ways, the assignment was akin to covering a foreign country. Like most foreigners, Nossiter had trouble at first learning the local language and byways. But, like most smart and persistent travelers, eventually he could claim some measure of understanding. In asking why the Evers case came to trial again, Nossiter found the answer not through looking at culture or economics but through a study of changing state government politics, which he views as ``a compelling mirror of larger movements beneath the surface.'' His Jewishness often plays a part in the story. For example, in July 1992 Nossiter finally had an opportunity to meet the imprisoned de la Beckwith, a man past 70 and in failing health. A friend, knowing de la Beckwith would never grant an interview to a Jew, presented Nossiter as a Catholic. But de la Beckwith was suspicious. ``Say the Hail Mary for me,'' he demanded of Nossiter, who admitted, ``Can't. Don't know it.'' Immediately, Nossiter writes, ``the look on Beckwith's face changed.'' Then he spoke: ``You're not a Catholic. You're a damn Jew.'' The book is filled with such dramatic, revelatory scenes, which prove Nossiter to be a perceptive, observant journalist. They are not likely to be forgotten soon by readers.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-201-60844-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994