Chester Martin Remembers Llewellyn Evans

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Llewellyn Evans was from the Dakotas, but had gone to University in the Pacific Northwest. He got a degree in Electrical Engineering, and became employed by TVA in its early days, soon determining electricity rates for the entire TVA system. The EPB's slogan of the day was, "Electricity is Cheap in Chattanooga", and we can thank our Mr. Llewellyn Evans for that!

He was "Chief Consulting Engineer" for TVA, when I knew him, and in that capacity he was "loaned around like a hammer" to countries which had suffered most during WWII.

He fixed problems in Taiwan and Austria, most notably, before returning to Chattanooga. Here he became involved at Jones Observatory, and that is where I met him. He designed and helped build its first planetarium dome.

Llewellyn Evans had a delightful personality and worked well with both Clarence T. Jones, Builder of the observatory, and Dr. Karel Hujer, University of Chattanooga astronomer. One mental image I have of Evans is of him standing at a work-table in the observatory's dome area, where he intensely made  mathematical calculations from the heavy volumes of sidereal (star) time, one small desk lamp lit.

Another memory I have of him was as raconteur: At a dinner-party one evening, we were waiting for the food to be readied, when he began telling the room how he and some friends, as students, had gone climbing on a glacier in Washington State. Night fell, and they were prepared for it, somehow taking refuge under the curling glacial ice. It was warmer than imagined, but totally dark. We in the audience were spellbound - and - then "dinner was served", and I never heard the end of that compelling story!

At WWII's end he was sent to Vienna, Austria, and there was a lot of war rubble remaining in the streets. A statue of Santa Barbara had fallen, and shattered, from high on the famous Votive Church in central Vienna - around which he had to walk twice daily. He convinced the church authorities that he could replace the broken statue with a new one if they would supply the stone. A matching piece of marble was provided and Evans carved the new saint from it! For payment, he received a piece of the original stained glass from a broken window which he kept on display in his Missionary Ridge home.

Back in Chattanooga he later carved a marble bust of a much-beloved Sunday School teacher. He taught  pottery at Senior Neighbors, and carved his own golf clubs from persimmon wood. Further observatory work included heading a "Moon Watch" program in the early days of the Space Race. He received high praise from the Smithsonian for those efforts, and a dinner was given here locally in his honor.

Past age 80, and armed with only a hand-saw, I found him one day topping trees that interfered with viewing the skies from Jones Observatory! “No job too large or too small” for him!

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )

Llewellyn Evans, left, then chief consulting engineer for TVA, and Al Morgan, Chattanooga classical guitarist and amateur astronomer, at Jones Observatory, on June 11, 1948.
Llewellyn Evans, left, then chief consulting engineer for TVA, and Al Morgan, Chattanooga classical guitarist and amateur astronomer, at Jones Observatory, on June 11, 1948.

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