J. Claude Evans family papers, 1930-2002

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Evans family
J. Claude Evans was a United Methodist minister who served in South Carolina, Texas, and North Carolina along with his wife, Maxilla. He edited the South Carolina Methodist Advocate from 1952 to 1957, and was chaplain at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1957 until his retirement from the ministry in 1982. The majority of the family's papers relate to the pastoral and counseling career of J. Claude Evans, and include drafts and copies of his sermons, articles, columns, and other writings from the 1940s through the early 2000s on wide-ranging topics such as Christianity, spirituality, abortion, race, sexuality, sexism, nature, equality, aging, and violence. The papers also include some personal materials, correspondence, genealogy, notes and printed materials from his many professional activities, and Evans' subject files. There is a small amount of material created and collected by Maxilla, J. Claude's wife, largely relating to her bird watching and breeding of songbirds in Texas and North Carolina.
30 Linear Feet
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

This collection has been arranged into nine series, most of which reflect the life and work of J. Claude Evans. One series, the Maxilla Evans Materials series, relates exclusively to Maxilla Evans' interests in birding, bird breeding, and horticulture, and also includes some of her writings, correspondence, family history, and other collected materials.

One of the largest series relating to J. Claude Evans is the Sermons series, with sermons arranged alphabetically by title. Files in this series reflect Evans' own arrangement of his papers, which typically include sermon copies with annotations punctuating his delivery and emphasis, notes and research about the subject, lists of when the sermon was preached and at which church, and occasionally bulletins from various services. Sermon topics varied widely, with many fairly liberal sermons on controversial issues like women's rights, abortion, racism, drugs, communism, atheism, and homosexuality.

Another large component of the collection is the Subject Files series, collected by Evans to support his research and writings both as a pastor and a columnist. This series includes many clippings, notes, and other materials curated by Evans, and is also arranged alphabetically by subject.

Evans' Correspondence is arranged into alphabetical and thematic sub-series. Most of the correspondence is sorted alphabetically by correspondent, unless Evans purposefully collected and grouped a batch of letters together under another heading; usually these are letters he received in reaction to an article or sermon on controversial issues like race, abortion, and so on. Evans also separated letters between him and Maxilla during World War II and his other travels. These headings are listed beneath the alphabetical correspondence files.

Evans' Personal Files relate to largely non-pastoral or counseling topics, including his childhood, marriage and family, military life, family history and photographs, and scrapbooks. The Pastoral Activities series includes Evans' materials from various churches and community organizations such as the Intentional Growth Center, as well as counseling and theology professional memberships. This series also includes a small amount of audiocassettes recording Evans' devotionals, seminar workshops, and other speaking engagements. Finally, the Courses and Notes series contains most of Evans' handwritten notes from the many seminars, workshops, and classes he both took and taught during his long career as a pastor and counselor.

Evans' prolific Writings began while he was a student in the 1930s and continued until he retired from writing columns for the Waynesville Mountaineer in 2000. The series is arranged into Published Articles, Drafts, and Prayers. Within the Drafts are Evans' multiple working copies of his Mountaineer columns, arranged alphabetically by title. (Copies of the published versions are filed chronologically under Published Articles.) Additional reactions to Evans' writings can also be found in the Correspondence series. The Prayers are unsorted, except for a batch of prayer cards organized by subject, kept by Evans during his chaplaincy at SMU.

The Printed Materials series contains texts both written, edited, and collected by Evans, including college yearbooks, bound copies of the Methodist Advocate dating from his tenure as editor, and other books that reference Evans and his work as an abortion counselor.

Biographical / historical:

J. Claude Evans was born in Anderson, SC, in 1917. He graduated from Wofford College and Duke Divinity School (1940) and became an ordained member of the South Carolina Methodist Conference. He served pastorates in Columbia, Clemson, and Walhalla, was a Navy chaplain in 1944-45, edited the S.C. Methodist Advocate from 1952-57 (for which he wrote many editorials on issues like race and McCarthyism), and served as the university chaplain at SMU from 1957-82. In retirement he wrote regular columns for the Waynesville, N.C., Mountaineer, primarily on social justice issues. He also had a substantial practice in family counseling.

His papers consist of large numbers of sermons, articles (he wrote regularly for the Christian Century in the 1960s and 1970s), and columns as well as some correspondence. He began speaking out on racial justice in 1942 with a sermon attacking the biological idea of race that got him barred from the pulpit of Washington Street Methodist Church in Columbia. In the early 1970s, before Roe v. Wade, he was active in the Clergy Consultation on Abortion, an abortion referral network, and he wrote a number of sermons and columns on gay rights, drawing on the experience of having a lesbian sister.

Maxilla Evans was born in 1917 in Palmyra, North Carolina. She first attended the N.C. Women's College in Greensboro, but graduated from N.C. State University in 1940 with a degree in landscape architecture. She and J. Claude Evans married that year and had four children. Maxilla was an active birder and gardener, and raised prize-winning canaries along with collecting rare and unique Appalachian plants. She help found and create the Corneille Bryan Native Garden at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. The couple later relocated to Asheville. J. Claude Evans died on September 7, 2007. Maxilla Evans died on December 25, 2007.

Acquisition information:
The J. Claude Evans Family Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2006.
Processing information:

Processed by Elisabeth Narkin, Meghan Lyon, Jessica Rodriguez, Nicole Rudden, December 2012

Encoded by Elisabeth Narkin, December 2012; Meghan Lyon, January 2013

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2006-0074

Materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], J. Claude Evans Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.