Charles Evers, who died Wednesday at the age of 97, led a colorful and historically important life. The brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers was as varied in his occupations as he was in his politics.

Charles Evers made history in 1969 when he was elected mayor of Fayette, becoming the first African American to head a multiracial town in Mississippi  since Reconstruction. A campaign he lost was even more noteworthy.

Running as an independent in the 1978 race for a U.S. Senate seat, Evers helped split the Democratic vote. That enabled Thad Cochran to win with just 45% of the vote, making him the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi since Reconstruction.

That was a watershed moment for the GOP, beginning the momentum that would eventually produce its current dominance in this state.

Evers later embraced the party he helped get an initial foothold. In 2016 he cast one of the state’s six electoral votes for Donald Trump.

Tim Kalich, Greenwood Commonwealth

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