Idaho’s faithful servant, Governor John Victor Evans, Sr. joined his heavenly family on July 8, 2014, surrounded by family at his home in Boise, ID. A descendent of an Idaho pioneer family, John was born in Malad, Idaho on January 18, 1925, to David Lloyd and Margaret Thomas Evans. He attended public schools in Malad and graduated from Malad High School in 1943. An accomplished athlete, “Jack”, as he was fondly called, helped lead his high school basketball team to district championship against Pocatello High School in his senior year – quite a feat for the small Malad hamlet.
Evans attended Idaho State University prior to joining the Army. He spent 18 months overseas as an Army infantryman in World War II, serving in the Philippines and Korea. He married his high school sweetheart, Lola Daniels, on April 29, 1945, in Malad, Idaho, while home on leave before being shipped to overseas. John and Lola celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary this year. At war’s end, he attended Stanford University and graduated with a degree in business and economics. Before becoming Governor, Evans was a Malad farmer, rancher, and businessman. With his two brothers and sister, he operated business holdings established by his father and grandfather.
Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, D.L. Evans, who served as Idaho House Speaker at the turn of the 20th century, Evans spent thirty-three years in public service. His service was almost continuous from 1953 to 1987 when he finished his term as the 27th Governor of the State of Idaho. He served three terms in the Idaho Senate from 1953 to 1958, serving as Majority Leader of the Idaho Senate in 1957-1958. Mr. Evans left the legislature and was elected Mayor of Malad and served from 1960 to 1966. Mr. Evans returned to the Senate in 1967 (Minority Leader from 1969-1974) and served four more terms, until his election as Lieutenant Governor in 1974.
His crowning political achievement came when Evans became Idaho’s twenty-seventh Governor on January 24, 1977. Governor Cecil Andrus was appointed to Secretary of the Interior, Lieutenant Governor John V. Evans succeeded to the Office of Governor. He was elected to a four-year term as Governor on November 7, 1978 and re-elected to a second term in November of 1982. During his first term, Governor Evans initiated a “Capital for a Day” program that took the administration of state government to each county seat for a day activity. As part of the day, he conducted town hall meetings giving participants the opportunity to voice their concerns and hear directly from the Governor.
While Governor he was particularly dedicated to providing the children of Idaho the finest educational opportunities possible under rather extreme budgetary limitations. Facing severe financial deficits during the early eighties he supported both severe budget restrictions as well as increased taxes to provide for a growing state economy and balance the state’s budget.
Being a farmer and understanding the importance of Idaho’s water, Governor Evans guided Idaho in the resolution of one of the most troubling water issues of the century. Governor Evans, along with then Attorney General Jim Jones, negotiated a settlement with Idaho Power on the Swan Falls Decision, which established minimum flow for power generation and required a basin wide adjudication of the Snake River Water Rights.
With the closing of Idaho’s oldest and largest silver mine “Bunker Hill” in Shoshone County in 1982 and the loss of 2,200 miner’s jobs, Governor Evans marshaled state and federal resources available to stabilize the North Idaho mining economy, locate jobs for the unemployed miners and support their families. He counted this time as one of the most troubling economic times in our state’s history.
Governor Evans was active in both the Western Governors’ Association and the National Governors’ Association. He served as vice chairman and chairman of the Western Governors’ Conference. He served on numerous National Governors’ Association committees, many in committee leadership positions. Idaho’s capital city, Boise, was the site of the 1985 National Governors’ Association Annual Meeting. As the Host Governor, Governor Evans also welcomed seven of Canada’s ten Province Premiers, who participated for the first time in a National Governors’ Association annual meeting. During this meeting, a Governors and Premiers Task Force on Trade was established, and Governor Evans and Premier William Bennett of British Columbia were named co-chairmen.
In 1986, Governor Evans experienced his only election defeat when he ran for the U.S. Senate. The Gov retired from public office on January 5, 1987, at the completion of his second full term as Governor and was recognized as having held the office for ten years, which is the third longest term of any Governor in Idaho’s history.
He joined D.L. Evans Bank in Burley, Idaho, as President and served in that capacity until his death. He actively worked in the Bank until 2009 and, with his son, CEO John V. Evans, Jr., grew D.L. Evans Bank from two branches to 21 branches, soon to grow to 26 branches by September 15, 2014. He took great pleasure in serving on the D.L. Evans Bancorp and D.L. Evans Bank Boards of Directors with his brother, Chairman Don S. Evans, Sr.; nieces, M. DeLell Evans and Paula D. Evans; nephews Don S. Evans, Jr. and Larry L. Evans, children, David L. Evans, CEO John V. Evans, Jr., Martha Evans Gilgen and Susan Evans Scarlett; and close Burley friends and businessmen, Glen Kunau, Lex Kunau, and James Lynch, Sr.
Fondly called “Guv” by bank employees, John truly enjoyed his banking career and was a great spokesperson. He loved the camaraderie of the Bank employees and meeting and working for the Bank’s customers. He always made time to meet with customers, advise staff and was routinely the last employee to leave at the end of the day. He immersed himself into community service, supporting the efforts of many associations throughout the Magic Valley. He served as secretary of the Independent Community Bankers Association and on ICBA committees and lobbied Congress on behalf of the nation’s community bankers.
His public accomplishments are well recognized, but they pale in comparison to his love and support of his family. He loved his wife, Lola, dearly and cared for her passionately. They were a powerful political team, renowned for their ability to “work a crowd”. He created opportunities for his children and grandchildren and planned for his grandchildren’s college education. His grandchildren loved his Dempsey breakfasts, cooked on the old cabin’s wood burning stove. Despite his busy schedule he always had time for his grandchildren at the Dempsey Creek Ranch. He was a voracious reader and writer of Dempsey journals. You could depend on him to have a pen is his pocket – always prepared!
He supported the Democratic Party, unconditionally gave time to democratic candidates and championed social justice causes. He believed in rights for all Idahoans, a constant progressive thinker; in 1965, he was the father who told his ten-year old daughter she would go to college and should become a lawyer.
Too numerous to name are the many civic, city, county, state and national organizations on which he served throughout his lifetime. Mr. Evans is a member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and served as vice chairman of the National Distinguished Guests Committee of the American Legion. He was a member of the 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge, a member of the Masonic Lodge #51 Malad, Fraternal Order of Eagles, and the Rotary Club.
Mr. Evans is survived by his lovely wife, Lola D. Evans, brother, Don S. Evans, Sr. (Demona) Malad, ID; his children, David L. (Marian), Malad; ID; John V. (Karen), Burley, ID; Martha Evans Gilgen (Brent), Boise, ID; Susan Evans Scarlett (Paul), Portland, OR; and Thomas D. Evans, Twin Falls, ID. Gov. Evans had 15 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. His parents, David L. and Margaret T. Evans, brothers D.L. and Roland, sisters Neva and Mariemma, precede Mr. Evans in death.
Governor Evans will lie in state at the State Capitol on Friday, July 11, 2014, from 1 to 4 pm, for public viewing. Funeral services will follow at the First United Methodist Church, Cathedral of the Rockies, at 5 pm, under the direction of Summers Funeral Homes. Memorial services will be held at the Second Ward Church, Malad City, Idaho on July 12, 2014, at noon with graveside services following at the Malad City Cemetery, under the direction of Horsley Funeral Homes.
The family expresses their appreciation to Alexis Thiel, Bobbie McCommon, Brenna Kreglo and Abby Carman of 24/7 Idaho Home Care and Harrison’s Hope Hospice for their excellent care and attention. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to any Idaho public school, college or university, a charity of your choice.