It’s doubtful that the Rev. Carlton Eversley, who died last week at the age of 62, would have minded being called a “social justice warrior” — a description that some use today to mock those who are concerned about other people’s welfare. Eversley’s life defined the term in the best possible way as he fought for justice for many who were underprivileged and oppressed.
We join many others who mourn his passage, but feel encouraged by the strong example he set and the legacy he leaves behind.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Eversley and his wife, Luellen Curry, moved to Winston-Salem in 1984. He was pastor of Dellabrook Presbyterian Church for 35 years and was an active leader in the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity and the Winston-Salem NAACP.
During his ministry in Winston-Salem, Eversley fought for justice for many who needed a helping hand, motivated by what he told the Journal, in 1986, were “the foundational forces in his life:” “Being black and being Christian.” Those factors led Eversley to involve himself in many prominent issues in Winston-Salem, including racial discrimination, equal access to education and caring for “the least of these.” Along with allies like former Winston-Salem City Council member Larry Little and the Rev. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, he led efforts to free two black men who many believed were wrongfully convicted of crimes, Darryl Hunt and Kalvin Michael Smith. His efforts helped lead to freedom and exoneration for Hunt.
Eversley spoke out in support of organizations like AIDS Care Service, telling the Journal’s then-editorial page editor, John Railey, in 2017, “A lot of this boils down to how do we treat human beings like human beings, created in the likeness of God?”
He opposed the 2012 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, telling the Journal that “the amendment isn’t about same-sex marriage; it’s about writing discrimination into the constitution.”
“No constitutional amendment should be directed toward limiting rights,” he said. “Black people have a painful history with a constitution that limited our rights.”
Perhaps he spoke most passionately as an advocate for black children in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system, fighting against plans that he and others thought would re-segregate the school system.
After his death, many who knew Eversley spoke to the Journal about their admiration of him, including one colleague who in today’s Readers’ Forum says he was “like a brother.” To Eversley’s credit, we know of no enemies he made. Even those who stood on the other side of issues from Eversley saw him as a person who gave and received respect.
“He was a strong advocate,” Don Martin, former school superintendent and current vice-chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, said of Eversley. “In our relationship, we had strong disagreements, but we respected each other.”
“I had much appreciation and admiration for his compassion and care for children who could not advocate for themselves,” state Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, and a former member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, told the Journal in an email. “He was a man of God who only was fighting for what he believed, and how could you disagree with that passion?”
We hope future generations and leaders-to-be will learn about this warrior and the strong stands he took for all local residents, living out his convictions with courage and compassion.