Following Mom, her trailblazing mother and my grandmother, Evelyn, during her college years, became an activist with the St. Louis branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. After graduation, her NAACP association, devotion continued. Evelyn served in multiple capacities; chairing education and membership committees, then, successively, as branch vice-president, treasurer, and president. Her presidency (1963-1966) was an über-busy time. The branch, among numerous initiatives, litigated against the St. Louis Board of Education for unfair practices in resource allocation, demonstrated for Missouri civil rights legislation, and filed legal injunction to protest employment discrimination practices in the building of the St. Louis Gateway Arch and in the municipal service system. Later, she served as a national board member, focusing her energies on the subcommittee on prison reform.
Dedicated to her causes, Evelyn was equally serious of academic purpose. One vignette among countless. I never can forget a Saturday visit to her in her home office during her doctoral study years, finding her in tears. A research paper on A View of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Mysticism through the Lens of The House of the Seven Gables, was due the following Monday. Having completed her just under 200-page opus with its 40 or so pages of single-spaced end notes, she reviewed the syllabus horrified to have missed one direction: Length of paper: 150 pages. In the remaining hours of that weekend, frantically she set about trimming, slashing her well-crafted prose!
Evelyn was more than an activist and academician. As our maiden aunt, she was generous in her affection, lavishing her attention on Wayne and me, frequently taking us on outings – always riding in style in her immaculate Buick Invicta ragtop – for educational enhancement to museums, to the symphony and the opera, or to the Old Courthouse downtown, recounting to us in detail the 1847 story of Dred and Harriet Scott suing for their freedom from slavery and for purest fun to the zoo or an impromptu getaway to Ted Drewes for mountainous scoops of ice cream.
A brilliant, outrageously funny raconteur. A vivacious fashionista decades before Sex and the City popularized the term and the look. A proud black woman with a wealth of interests, a breadth of opinion, and a depth of faith in God. Aunt Evelyn, I salute you!