JOHN GARY EVANS was born in Cokesbury, South Carolina. 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, South Carolina 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 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, Cuban 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.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.