By Effie Rolfe, Chicago Crusader
It was a night to remember as the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago hosted an epic event to commemorate the legendary Rev. Dr. Clay Evans at the Harold Washington Library for the Legacy Celebration of Rev. Clay Evans Archives: A Preview. The Founder of the historic Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and Pastor Emeritus brought clergy, church members, family and friends from near and far as well as luminaries such as Rev. Maceo Woods, Archbishop Lucius Hall, Rev Henry Hardy, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Former Governor Pat Quinn, Rev. Charles Jenkins, Rev. Michael Eady, Rev. Stephen Thurston, Pastor Mark Henton, Mary Prendergast, Larry Taylor, Latrese York, Helen Warren, Frank and Pam (Morris) Walton, Alderwoman Carrie Austin, Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Rev. Johnnie Miller, Rev. Charlie Dates and Bill Rawls, the Mayor of Brownsville, Tennessee where Rev. Clay Evans was born. Pastor DeAndre Patterson served as Master of Ceremonies. Dr. Lou Della Evans Reid along with Fred Nelson, Rev. Bryant Jones, Kennard Pulliam and the Traditional Choir directed by Rev. Reginald McCracken performed favorites including What A Fellowship, the Lord’s Prayer with Rev. Evans lending his lead vocals with the choir similar to the 9 p.m. broadcast hour. Total Praise Medley that featured psalmist, Edward Clarke. Ralph Evans performed beautifully during the reception in the Winter Garden after the program ended.
Mayor Emanuel welcomed the crowd and shared, “For the 90 years Rev. Dr. Evans has been on this earth he has sought to impact the world by changing society. Rev Evans never stopped believing in his purpose to unite all people. His vision in establishing the historic Fellowship MB Church and co-founding Operation PUSH are vibrant parts of the spiritual and cultural fabric of Chicago. But Reverend Evans’ important work and activism during the Civil Rights Movement, alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other inspirational leaders, changed the course of our nation.” The Mayor continued at one point almost in tears, “This very special collection that chronicles Rev. Evans extraordinary life and work as an advocate and activist in Chicago and across America is a rare gift. We must always recognize the contributions of drum majors like Reverend Evans in forging the freedoms we take for granted. He ended by saying, “I am proud to present this preview exhibit in honor of a true Chicagoan. Today, on the last day of Black History Month, and every day hereafter, this poignant collection highlights the message and celebrates the messenger.”
Other highlights of the evening brought applause and standing ovations including former Gov. Pat Quinn who spoke and shared scriptures in the Old and the New Testaments. As the former Governor exited the stage, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. said, “Pat we need you back!” Rev. Jackson gave a strong chronological review of the struggles that the nonagenarian endured as a Pastor, Civil Rights Activist and Leader. He continues with details of how Dr. Evans against all odds stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. until God overturned the situation with more favorable circumstances such as the genesis of Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH and ultimately the church being completed in 1973. Minister Louis Farrakhan remarked that, “Rev. Evans is a “Pastor’s Pastor. A man of integrity—his word is his bond. We are blessed Rev. Evans…just to watch you and Dr. Lou Della this evening. May God bless those of us who serve—to serve with truth and justice. There is no death for Rev. Evans or for those who serve. The grave can’t hold him down because he will live on…” said Min. Farrakhan. Rev. Charles Jenkins said, “There are individuals who write history, others read history, some people make history…but you, Rev. Evans are history.” Rev. Stephen Thurston, “We came from the north, the east south and west for the 9 p.m. broadcast—What a Fellowship…” He continued jokingly, “He’s kind of like the woman in the shoe. He had so many children that he didn’t know what to do.” Mayor Rawls shared rich words of how he was the first Black mayor of Brownsville, in a building named after the first Black mayor of Chicago, with the first Jewish mayor…all under the tenure of the first Black President of the U.S. “I may be the first Black Mayor but I won’t be the last one. Our history is still being written.”
According to Librarian, Glenn Humphreys, Rev. Evans archives made available to the Harold Washington Library will be open to all. “Manuscripts, awards, minutes on the founding of the church and information and photos of the church at 4621 S. State, a 1500 car motorcade going to the original building on 45th Place and Princeton, the steel beams of the church during the 7 year halt from 1965 to April of 1973, Rev. Evans helped to integrate the Oak Wood Cemetery and the church travels to Paris, France are part of the exhibit,” shared Humphreys. Also, over 900 tapes from church will be digitized through Baylor University in Texas. The brainchild of the archival collection was Patty Nolan Fitzgerald who said, “Actually, I’d like to think that maybe my daring to stand up here represents what Reverend always preaches about: Rising above the isms, the isms of race, gender and denomination. Reverend, that inclusive spirit is just one of many ways that you demonstrated you were a man way ahead of his time. And everyone knows the story of what happened when you stood your ground with Boss Daley. I think that Congressman Rush, who regrets being unable to be here, said it powerfully, “Those steel beams stood as a metaphor for all the broken promises to the African American Community. Reverend, now that your archives are here, there won’t be any more old white women who don’t know who you are and what you mean to the world. From here on out, scholars and school kids will be able to hear your voice on the broadcasts teaching that “it’s just nice to be nice, and that we must trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, and that if you have your own mud, you can do your own daubing, that there’s room at the cross, and that if somebody spits in your face, don’t let him tell you it’s raining, and that Everything’s Going to be Alright,” and so much more,” shared Fitzgerald.
Lastly, Rev. Dr. Clay Evans took the stage to a standing ovation. He also acknowledged guests and invited his family to the stage to thank them for continued support. “When my family was at the church they were members, nobody got any special treatment. Lou Della was the only woman in the organizing of the church. When I was asked to give her special treatment, I said ‘No’ and she understood. All of the years I was the Pastor—she was just a member. Now that I’m not pastoring she is my sister and we can enjoy each other as siblings,” he said. Finally, Rev. Evans concluded the program by asking everyone to hold hands and sing “Sweet Hour of Prayer with Dr. Lou Della Evans Reid and the Traditional Choir. He then asked for prayer for longtime musician and faithful member, Royal “Mickey” Warren who started with the church as a youngster. Rev Evans said, “If you remember all of the years I said hold it Roy, he knew how to hold it and he knew how to take off (with music)…please pray for Mickey who couldn’t be here because he’s in the hospital tonight.” Additionally, he requested Rev. DeAndre Patterson to sing, “To God Be the Glory” and Rev. Henry Hardy to give the benediction. Afterwards, the audience moved to the Winter Garden to preview the archives. The Rev. Clay Evans Archives Exhibit is scheduled for display in 2017 at the Harold Washington Library at 400 S. State Street in downtown Chicago.
Is your life story giving God the Glory…?
© Effie Rolfe is an Author of “Supersize Your Thinking,” Media Personality and Motivational Speaker. You can contact her on twitter.com/effiedrolfe Listen to her show daily on urbanpraiseradio.org (2015 Stellar Award Winner for Best Internet Radio Station)