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Commemorating the spiritual life, work of Rev. Clay Evans

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad and Toure Muhammad | Last updated: Dec 10, 2019 - 11:08:48 AM

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CHICAGO— Thousands of mourners, supporters, well-wishers and community residents came together to celebrate the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Clay Evans during a two-day tribute in Chicago held Dec. 6-7.


The longtime pastor and founder of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church and extraordinary gospel musician died Nov. 27 at the age of 94.

Political officials, religious luminaries, local activists and public figures gathered Dec. 6 at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church where Rev. Evans pastored for 50 years for a governmental and civic celebration followed by an official celebration of life service Dec. 7 at Apostolic Faith Church.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and former mayor, Richard M. Daley were amongst those who honored “The Godfather,” as the reverend was affectionately called.

“Reverend Clay Evans often told us it is no secret what God can do, and his life was proof of that,” Mayor Lightfoot said during the Dec. 7 funeral. “Chicago is stronger, we are better because of a young man from Bronzeville who built his ministry as a beacon of hope in Bronzeville, Chicago and dedicated his life’s work to everyone who gathers here and everyone who calls Chicago his home,” she said.

Many remembered Rev. Evans’ groundwork as a public supporter of the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King and in helping launch Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH.

Rev. Evans opened his church doors to Dr. King when many pastors refused. He also stood for women’s rights and ordained Consuela York, known as “Mother York,” the first Black woman to be ordained into the Baptist clergy in the city of Chicago. It was an unprecedented and bold move for a woman to not only speak from a church pulpit but to preside over a church.

“To me, he was really a man first; he loved his church, he loved everyone who basically assembled in a church, and to me, I truly will miss him. He was a good friend of mine and one a father, first and foremost,” said former mayor Richard M. Daley who extended his condolences to the Evans’ family.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown; Chief Judge Timothy Evans; Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward and Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward; former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak; Secretary of State Jesse White; Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; and Congressmen Bobby Rush (DIll.) and Danny Davis (D-Ill.) paid tribute during the Dec. 6 commemoration.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and fellow clergy and religious leaders including Associate Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Reginald W. Sharpe Jr.; Rev. Henry O. Hardy; Pastor Walter P. Turner; Pastor James Meeks; spiritual sons Lemont Watson and Michael Shaw; and Celestine West who was Rev. Evans’ secretary shared remarks Dec. 7.



Minister Farrakhan spoke on how Rev. Evans reflected Christ, their relationship and his hopes that all present will help usher in a revival of the Black church.

“I rejoice in your praise of God and your praise of one whom God sent to minister to us all,” said Minister Farrakhan.

“He made me a son though I’m hated. Though I’m misunderstood. Though I’m evil spoken of. Don’t nobody want to sit with me because I have a disease of courage. I have a disease of long and love for my people that I will not shrink in the face of the enemy. So, he embraced me and let me know, ‘Minister, it is well with our Lord.’ So, to God and to God alone be the glory,” said the Minister in his roughly 12-minute talk.

“When you meet a man that has gone through the trials that he has gone through to be to us what he has become to all of us, then each of us, at his home going need to redeclare ourselves. Don’t just talk about Jesus, because many can talk about him. But what we need today are those who live Jesus Christ and Pastor Evans didn’t just talk Jesus. When you met him, you met a reflection of Jesus. And if all of us, though we talk the great talk; if we would walk the great walk, then at his home going, there will be a revival of that Black church that can give salvation and redemption to our people.”

The Minister thanked Rev. Jesse Jackson for introducing him to Rev. Evans and to the “exquisite beauty of the Black church.”

The Minister’s love and words touched the primarily Christian audience who broke into applause throughout his brief, but powerful words. At times an organ broke in and the audience clapped, waved and shouted, “Go ahead!” as he preached.

“What the Minister said was very important. Until we come together and turn to each other and stop turning in one another, things won’t change,” said Rev. Tony Land, who attended the homegoing service.

“Look I’m Christian but if I can just sit and hear him he truly blessed me,” declared one of hundreds who commented once the Minister’s words and video were posted on

“Yes, this was the speaker of today, Lord God you showed your people,” said La Savine Givens. “This man is matter what religion we serve ... I truly believe he love us all ... I love him,” added Carletta Bush. “As a proud Baptist Christian Man. This Iconic BROTHER, the honorable Louis Farrakhan blessed my soul today ... his love & respect for Pastor Clay Evans overwhelming religious beliefs ... He spoke today with fire. A great anointing,” declared SOUTHERN Epic. “I’m a Christian and I tell you, every time I hear this man speak. I feel the power in his words. God bless you Minister Farrakhan,” said another viewer. “This is some powerful stuff! Thanks for sharing. We choose our leaders. We cannot let others choose them for us,” declared another YouTube post.



Mirriam Nyamwana said, “When Minister Farrakhan speaks you have to listen.” “I am Christian and I love the Minister Farrakhan,” said Iris Bradley. “As a preacher I missed Judge Him. Please forgive me Minister Farrakhan,” added Clifford Kemp.

The Twitter response was similar: @KareemMichel sent a message for his mother, “As-salamu a’laikum my brother, @LouisFarrakhan I just wanted to tell you that since my mom doesn’t have a Twitter, she wanted me to tell you that she thanks you for your beautiful words of wisdom and preaching at Rev. Dr. Clay Evans Homegoing Celebration.” @pastormelech tweeted, “Ya’ll ... the War Cry just broke out after the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke. The African religious/spiritual tradition has never been nor will it ever be linear or binary. At its core, it is inclusive and resistant to chains.” “My Minister is the best preacher in the church. That’s what the church people said,” commented @famous14u@DeaconKirby said, “Louis Farrakhan is up in the building ... Praise God! #RevClayEvans Drew everyone out of the house this morning.”

“Man I don’t care what y’all say, Louis Farrakhan knows the Lord!” added @rhughes357.

Rev. Jackson, the longtime civil rights activist said he wouldn’t have been successful in his continuous work without Rev. Evans’s help. I would’ve failed miserably, he said. Rev. Evans ordained Rev. Jackson in 1968 at Fellowship.

“Because of Reverend Evans’ inimitable impact on this city and his inestimable contributions to the Christian Church and all faith traditions I am humbled and honored to stand in the pastoral lineage of the Reverend Dr. Clay Evans,” said Rev. Reginald Sharpe Jr. who will succeed in leadership of Fellowship after current pastor, the Rev. Charles Jenkins, steps down at the end of the year.

“When he was singing, he was alive; when he was preaching, he was alive,” said Rev. Sharpe. “When he was guiding and advising ministers, mayors, and presidents he was alive; when he took a stand against racism, sexism, denominationalism and classism he was alive! As a matter of fact, the real question we all ought to ask is are we living or are we alive?” he continued.

Musicians and choirs performed soul-stirring gospel music, a hallmark tradition of the Black church throughout the over four hour service.

Rev. Evans was born on June 23, 1925, in Brownsville, Tenn. He studied at the Chicago Baptist Institute, the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago Divinity School and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1950.

Rev. Evans leaves to carry on his legacy a host of friends and family including; sisters Minnie Joe Evans and Dr. Lou Della Evans Reid; brother Rev. Pharis Evans; daughter Claudette Evans; granddaughter Michelle Evans; great-granddaughter Krystle Hall; and adopted son and daughter Deacon Johnnie and Walterine Johnson.