John Gary Evans

55th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1894 to 1897

Date Born: October 15, 1863

Date Died: June 27, 1942

Place Born: Cokesbury, SC

Place Buried: Willowbrook Cemetery, Edgefield, SC

Residence: Aiken, SC, then Spartanburg, SC

Occupation: Lawyer, Major - US Army


Union College, Schenectady, NY: Withdrew 1880

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1888-1891

South Carolina Senate: 1892-1893

South Carolina Governor: 1894-1897

Evans assisted in the creation of the civil government in Havana while a Major in the US Army during the Spanish-American War


John Gary Evans, born on October 15, 1863 in Cokesbury, Abbeville County, (now Greenwood County) SC, was the son of Gen. Nathan George Evans and Anne Victoria (Gary) Evans, the grandson of Hon. Thomas Evans and Jane Beverly Daniel, the great-grandson of Gen. Nathan Evans II and Edith Godbold, and the great-great grandson of Nathan Evans I and Ruth James of what later became Marion County, SC.

John Gary Evans was prepared for college in the Cokesbury Conference School, and in 1879, he entered Union College in Schenectady, NY, where he was elected President of his class during his junior year. Before he graduated, he entered the law office of his uncle, Maj. William T. Gary in Augusta, GA. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1886 and began to practice law in Aiken, SC the next year.

In 1888, John Gary Evans was first elected as one of four men to represent Aiken County in the House of Representatives of the:
- 58th General Assembly that met from 1888-1889
- 59th General Assembly that met from 1890-1891

In 1892, John Gary Evans was elected to represent Aiken County in the SC Senate of the:
- 60th General Assembly that met from 1892-1893

In 1894, John Gary Evans was elected Governor of South Carolina at the age of 31, thus becoming the youngest ever to be elected to that office. As Governor, he presided over and directed the 1895 Constitutional Convention. Evans supported women's suffrage, worked to improve education in the state, sought legislation to improve working conditions in mills and factories, and opened what is now the University of South Carolina to women. Today he is credited with bringing South Carolina into the 20th century.

Pledging not to run for reelection as governor in 1896, Evans set his sights instead for the U.S. Senate race. He lost the election and his attempt for an open Senate seat in 1897 again proved equally unsuccessful.

On December 15, 1897, John Gary Evans married Emily Mansfield Plume, daughter of Hon. David Scott Plume and Abbe (Cameron) Plume of Waterbury.

John Gary Evans also served as a Major in the United States Army, acting as Inspector General on the staff of Maj. Gen. J. Warren Keifer during the Spanish-American War. He was best known for his accomplishments in helping to establish a democratic government in Cuba while on the staff of Maj. Gen. William Ludlow, governor of the department of Havana. At the end of his military career, Evans returned to South Carolina and settled down in Spartanburg, where he resumed his law practice.

Further attempts at an open U.S. Senate seat in 1902 and 1908 proved futile and henceforward he focused his energies on internal South Carolin aDemocratic politics. Three times he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1900, 1912, and 1916. In 1914, he became the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic State Executive Committee and from 1918 to 1928 was the National Democratic Committeeman from South Carolina.

In 1922, John Gary Evans was elected as one of seven men to represent Spartanburg County in the House of Representatives of the:
- 75th General Assembly that met from 1923-1924.

John Gary Evans died in Spartanburg, SC on June 27, 1942 and was buried in the Willowbrook Cemetery in Edgefield, SC.


John Gary Evans was born in Cokesbury, SC. He left Union College in Schenectady, New York in his junior year but read law and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1886. He was director of the Bank of Commerce in Spartanburg, SC and a trustee of South Carolina College for three years. Prior to becoming governor, he was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives for four years and a member of the South Carolina Senate for two years. During his gubernatorial term, he served as President of the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention. The end result was a Constitution that effectively disenfranchised most black voters, prohibited interracial marriages, and legalized school segregation. At the same time, counties were made liable for $2,000 for every lynching that took place within their jurisdictions, with the money going to the victims' heirs. The new SC Constitution also limited governors to two terms of two years each. An unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1896, Evans left the governorship after his first term ended. He served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War and assisted in organizing the civil government of Havana, Cuba when the war ended. He also served as a delegate to a number of Democratic National Conventions and was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1918 to 1930.

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