When Carrie Johnson told me about her son’s injury, a story we told as part of our February cover story, I nodded and asked a lot of questions. I didn’t ask, “Who is Jack Evans?” even though the question entered my mind. I know that name, after all. He’s the guy we named the police headquarters after. I know who Jack Evans is. But not really.
Evans touched Johnson’s life, although they never met, while he was chairman and CEO of Tom Thumb and she was an employee of the company. Evidently, he paid her son’s hospital bills after the son was shot in a random incident and almost died. It’s one thing that has kept Johnson loyal to Tom Thumb, where she has worked for 35 years.
Back at the office, I googled Jack Evans and found his Wikipedia page.
Jack Evans, you probably already know, was the mayor of Dallas from 1981-83. Forgive me, I thought Dallas was just a TV show and the place with awesome cheerleaders at that time. Evans lead the company that owned Tom Thumb, and he was a key investor in Norman Brinker’s Steak & Ale restaurant concept. My favorite sentence in his Wikipedia is this: “He received criticism for being the first (Dallas) mayor to address a gay and lesbian organization, the Dallas Gay Alliance.” Evans eventually backed off his stance that the city should hire openly gay police and fire fighters because homosexuality was illegal in Texas until 2003.
Evans is the mayor who made the Dallas Arts District possible, “persuading Borden Inc. to swap prime downtown property for a symphony hall location,” according to his Dallas Morning News obituary.
Evans also was our neighborhood son. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and opened Lakewood Food Mart in 1947. It was at the corner of Abrams and Goliad, at 2311 Abrams, where a vacant bank building is now. I can find two mentions of that grocery in the Dallas Morning New Historical Archives. In January 1948, a “safe-cracker” made off with $210. That two-sentence story says Evans lived at 6573 Anita at the time.
A stand-alone photo (above) that ran in 1952 announces Evans and his dad, W.R. Evans, had remodeled the store. They added 27 parking spaces, plus new shopping carts and air conditioning.
Evans died in 1997, when he was 74. If he were alive, I would’ve asked him if he really paid Larry Johnson’s hospital bill in 1992. And if so, why? We know he was rich because Wikipedia tells us this: “Evans was kidnapped in February 1978 at the Tom Thumb Corporate Headquarters, but escaped when the kidnappers went to collect the $100,000 ransom given by one of his sons, Roy Gene Evans.”
But why pay medical expenses, supposedly $150,000, for the relative of an employee you don’t even know? I’m sure his reasons had to be deeper, but I think maybe this Jack Evans fellow was just a nice guy.
It is a really snazzy police station they have over there, and I’m glad it helps people like me recognize his name and wonder who he was. But I wish that name could be on something a little more glamorous. The 1983 me would like to suggest The Jack W. Evans Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Because Jack W. Evans was just that awesome.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.