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Evans, Louis Hadley (1897-1981) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Evans, Louis Hadley (1897-1981)


Historical Note:

Louis Hadley Evans, or Louie as he was known by many, was born in Goshen, Indiana on May 31, 1897 and was of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Louis Evans’ father was Dr. William Evans. The senior Evans was the first graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1892.

When William Evans returned to the Chicago area to begin teaching on the faculty of Moody Bible Institute in 1903, he and his family settled in Wheaton, Illinois purchasing a home at the edge of the Wheaton College campus. While the family lived in Wheaton, Louis attended Wheaton Academy, which was then located across the street. After graduating from the Academy he enrolled in Wheaton College.

While growing up Louie truly enjoyed sports. He played on the 1914-15 Wheaton College baseball team. Despite all of the changes in his life in the years to come, sports was one of the things that would remain a constant companion.

Louie withdrew from Wheaton after one year when the family moved to California. It was here that Louis enrolled in Occidental College, a Presbyterian-affiliated school located in Eagle Rock, now a neighborhood of Los Angeles. All of Evans' children would also attend and graduate from Occidental. While a student at Occidental, Louis took up football and became an All-American tight-end. After his graduation in 1918 he returned to Chicago to begin studies at McCormick Theological Seminary.

While at Occidental, Louis had met Marie Egly and on December 27, 1921 they were married. She was to be his wife, companion, friend, and supporter for almost sixty years. Their union was blessed with four children: Lauralil, known as Lolly, Louie, Jr., Mary Eileen, known as Marily, and William.

When Louis Evans graduated from Chicago's McCormick Theological Seminary in 1922 he assumed the pastorate of First Presbyterian Church, a tiny church 4 miles from the US/Canadian border with 29 members in the prairie town of Westhope, N.D. (pop then, 439). When he arrived Evans was told that the boys of the town were hellions. Evans promptly commandeered a hotel, rallied the town’s boys with saws and hammers to convert it into 'Evan’s Gym.' By the time he left, three years later, order was restored and his congregation had swelled from 29 to 125.

Evans most certainly realized the importance of mixing athletics and the Christian faith for evangelism and discipleship. This experience also shows Evans' desire to minister to youth and to provide for them resources for living. From Westhope, Evans moved to seaside Wilmington, California, to the west of Los Angeles, in 1925. While in Wilmington Evans launched another ministry, this one to families.

In 1927 he founded Presbyterian Mariners, drawing its name and nomenclature from nautical terms and the sea. The mission of the Mariner program is to nurture marriages and families in spiritual growth and service through organized groups in Presbyterian congregations. Evans pastored in Wilmington until 1928 when he moved to Pomona, California, east of Los Angeles.

In 1931 Evans moved his family once again, this time it was not a simple move across town but nearly to the shores of another ocean. He accepted a call to the Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This church was a steel-rich conservative church of some size and resources and served as a training ground for future ministry. It was here in Pittsburgh, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Branch Richey, that Evans became familiar with many Christian business men who would later help fund a future ministry involving athletes.

In 1941 he received a call from First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. By this time he honed his pastoral and preaching skills. In various articles his preaching was described as the direct yet eloquent expression of a man who evidently believed intensely in the truth of what he was saying. He was a straight-from-the-shoulder pulpit speaker.

The ministry of Hollywood Presbyterian saw great advancement under Evans' ministry. In his twelve years there he saw the congregation increase from 2300 to 6400. Evans told Life Magazine that it made a rancher out of him instead of a shepherd. At Hollywood Evans placed an emphasis upon people. During his tenure the Hollywood church grew so much that the church held three services each Sunday in its 1700-seat sanctuary and each year the church would hold its Easter sunrise service in the Hollywood Bowl, seating over 12000 parishioners.

When Louis Evans arrived in Hollywood he came to an able staff. Henrietta Mears was on staff as Director of Christian Education and teacher of the college department. She had been serving in that position since 1928 and would continue until 1963. While at Hollywood, Mears founded Gospel Light Publishing using the curriculum made famous at the church.

At age 56 Evans became a "twentieth-century circuit rider." From 1953 to his retirement in 1962, Dr. Evans was Minister-At-Large for the United Presbyterian Church and spoke to groups ranging from atomic scientists to the Ethiopian General Assembly. This period also afforded Evans the time to write. Five of his eight books were written during this time. In addition to this Evans appeared in numerous films that were distributed to churches or broadcast on national television. Before he left Hollywood Evans also wrote a play titled Christ on Trial.

It was during his time as Minister-at-Large that Evans was able to devote more attention and energies to areas of ministry that he loved. He earnestly desired to bring individuals into relationship with Jesus Christ through the church universal. One such organization that received his help was Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Evans loved sports and he saw their utility in his own life and the life of the Church. Evans was instrumental in establishing Fellowship of Christian Athletes in its early days and was also influential as it took toddling steps in growth and made sure that it maintained its Christian focus, rather than become pluralistic. Evans served as its president for 2 years.

Louis Evans spent his life ministering to others, establishing individuals in their faith and seeking to build things that last. He was active until the four months preceding his death in September of 1981.

Note Author: Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections staff






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