President Obama has selected Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation at his public swearing-in on Jan. 21, which also happens to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Evers-Williams is a former chair of the NAACP and has written several books about her and her husband’s civil rights work. Medgar Evers was shot and killed at his Mississippi home in 1963 by a white supremacist, sparking national outcry. His murderer was finally convicted in 1994, after new evidence was brought to trial. The story was also turned into the 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi, with Whoopi Goldberg portraying Myrlie Evers.
The Washington Post reports that this is “the first time a woman, and a layperson rather than a clergy member, has been chosen to deliver what may be America’s most prominent public prayer.” Evers-Williams will be joined by conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, who will give the benediction.
“Vice President Biden and I are honored that Myrlie Evers-Williams and Rev. Louie Giglio will participate in the Inaugural ceremony,” President Obama said in a statement. “Their voices have inspired many people across this great nation within the faith community and beyond. Their careers reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans — justice, equality, and opportunity.”
The theme of the inauguration is “Faith in America’s Future.”
In 2009, evangelical pastor Rick Warren delivered the invocation and Dr. Joseph Lowry made some waves with his benediction.