Jack Evans likely would have loved his funeral — full of all the people he loved most on earth sharing their memories of his pioneering efforts in the LGBTQ community. In the eulogy presented by Evans’ longtime friend and minister Eric Folkerth at Northaven UnitedMethodist Church, Evans was remembered for the moments that made his life extraordinary, highlighted, of course, by his legal wedding to his partner of 55 years George Harris, the first same-sex couple to wed in Dallas County.
Evans died just two days before their first anniversary at the age of 86. But they got to get married, in a union recognized by all levels of government — something Evans always wanted but questioned whether he’d see in his lifetime.
Evans grew up in his family business in Olney, Texas, a grocery store where he perfected the gift of gab. Evans joined the Coast Guard to travel the country before applying for a sales job in Houston, according to his eulogy.
“In the course of his job, Jack was asked to take a polygraph test there, and one of the questions was, ‘Have you ever done anything you could be blackmailed for?'” Folkerth wrote. “Well, Jack already knew he was gay. And everybody in those days understood that you could be blackmailed for that.”
He was fired from Neiman Marcus, but not before he was asked to finish out the hectic holiday season at the retailer. It was an experience that would bond him with Harris, who also lost a job for being gay. Harris worked for the CIA, and was named on a list of “suspected homosexuals,” Folkerth says, many of whom faced jail time and public tribunals for their sexual identity. They met in Dallas in the 8th Day bar on McKinney Avenue, and a decades-long love story began.
It wasn’t always easy times. Evans and Harris watched friends get rounded up and arrested in unconstitutional police raids at local gay clubs in the 1960s and ’70s. They lost many friends during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. But through it all, they stayed by each other’s side. They found a balance in their differences — Evans being bubbly and gregarious, Harris being quiet and thoughtful. It helped them establish a successful real estate business, and build a lifetime of memories together.
“Jack Evans remained in love his entire life, with George, with life, with his many grateful friends who are here this day,” Folkerth says.
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