United Methodist Church in 1985. I remember people in Burley back then bragging that Governor Evans was from their home town.
He left the governor’s office in 1986 to run for the United States Senate. Steve Symms had defeated Frank Church in a huge upset in 1980. Steve Symms was thought to be vulnerable but, as it turned out, he was able to hold off the popular governor by a narrow margin. I don’t think Cassia County went for Symms. I’m pretty sure they went for Evans. It would have been one of the few times Cassia County voted for a Democrat. Following this defeat, Governor Evans closed out his term as governor and moved back to Burley. He became president of D.L. Evans bank, the bank his father had founded in 1904. Burley is a small town, so it was not unusual to cross paths with the former governor. Several in my church were good friends of his, so I was introduced to him.
When Idaho celebrated its centennial in 1990, I came up with a wild idea. Why not invite Governor Evans to preach at our church? He accepted and did a great job.
I know a little something about Governor Evans that may not be widely known. It wasn’t in any of the stories about him that I have read in the last few days. The official record of his life says that when he left the governor’s office he was content to leave politics. Well, not quite. Steve Symms had announced his retirement. He had pretty well worn out his welcome with the state of Idaho after two terms. So the Senate seat Governor Evans had almost won six years earlier was there for the taking. It was widely assumed that he would not be interested. He was done with politics. He liked his quiet life in Burley. The truth is, he almost ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992. I know this because I was there in the locker room of the Burley Racquetball Club. With a towel around my waist, I was sitting on a bench in front of our lockers with three or four other men similarly dressed. One of them was Governor Evans. He confided in us that he was seriously thinking about running for the Senate. He listed for us the pros and the cons. He hadn’t yet made up his mind. He was interested in what his friends would have to say.
As it turned out, he chose not to make the run. Dirk Kempthorne defeated Richard Stallings and replaced Senator Symms. But history could have been different. And, kind of like Forrest Gump, I was there.