Evans, Estill Raymond "Ray"

Well-Known Anthropologist And Chattanooga Historian

  • Monday, June 27, 2016
Raymond Evans
Raymond Evans

Estill Raymond "Ray" Evans, 77, died on Friday, June 17, 2016, in a local hospital. 

Ray was born March 15, 1939 in Grandview, Tn.

Raymond attended school in Spring City, TN and joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1957 and in the next year was stationed in Okinawa attached to the 3rd Marine Division which opened the Marine Compound at Da Nang Airbase, Vietnam.  Ray traveled extensively in Southeast Asia during his time there and his perspectives on cultural diversity, politics and America's role in the world were largely shaped by his experiences there.

He returned to California in the 1960s and became politically active. He was strongly supportive of the candidacy of Robert Kennedy whose murder and those of John F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. further strengthened his resolve in support of racial equality, economic and social justice.  He was strongly supportive of the work of the American political Left.  During this time, he worked as a union organizer traveling extensively across the country including work to unionize coal miners in Kentucky.  He was until his death a strong advocate for poor people, victims of police abuse and political oppression and he was an unapologetic opponent of predatory capitalism everywhere.

Ray's travels and experiences in Asia, Mexico and Central America, which he termed "swimming in the sea of the people" naturally led him to develop a strong interest in anthropology.  After coming to Chattanooga shortly after 1970, he entered the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and excelled in the study of sociology and cultural anthropology. He graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna cum Laude.  He developed a strong friendship and working relationship with the late Dr. Jeffrey L. Brown and was involved in many significant local projects undertaken by Dr. Brown's Institute of Archaeology.

Ray was a founding member and longtime board member of the Tennessee Anthropological Association between 1976 and 1985.  He also served as a board member, associate editor and vice president of the Tennessee Archaeological Society during this same period.

He was a researcher with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina and, along with Dr. Duane King, published many definitive articles for the museum detailing Cherokee history in their Journal of Cherokee Studies. More recently, he worked with advocates of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma to advance understanding of the historical importance of the Muscogee people who long predated the Cherokee in the  Tennessee Valley and who interacted with the Spanish explorers who entered this area in the mid 1500s.  He supported the Chattanooga Regional History Museum and greatly lamented its loss.

He participated in dozens of field projects and was a participating or principal investigator working for Hensley-Schmidt Engineers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, The Urban Observatory of Tennessee State University, the National Park Service, and GAI Consultants of Pittsburgh, PA.  His most recent Curriculum Vitae, which he constantly revised and edited for length because of his varied involvements, publications and projects, lists over 70 field investigations; over 200 books and manuscripts; several museum projects in Tennessee, Alabama and California; and many educational programs for schools.

Over the last decade, lamenting the loss of nearly all of the significant archaeological resources in the Chattanooga area to insensitive development, he called archaeology a "science rapidly losing its subject".  He wrote a detailed “cultural synthesis of the Chattanooga Riverfront” for Hamilton County government to bring attention to the remaining irreplaceable cultural resources at risk in our community.  Many regard it as sad and ironic that in the same week of his death, a newspaper article appeared concerning planned destruction of the last vestiges of Chattanooga’s globally significant Citico Mound and Muscogee town site.

In the 1990s Ray turned his efforts toward research centered on the American Civil War and the upcoming sesquicentennial commemoration of the war, particularly the Chickamauga and Atlanta campaigns. He challenged himself to write 100 books detailing important persons and battles of the war and provided the interpretative text for more than 70 historical markers erected in north Georgia and in Chattanooga by the Chickamauga Campaign Heritage Trail Project in partnership with Mr. John Culpepper and the Georgia Civil War Commission.

He wrote a book detailing the involvement of Sam Cheney, grandfather of the Vice President which was presented to Mr. Cheney when he visited the re-enactment of the Battle of Chickamauga.  He was active with the local camps of Sons of Confederate Veterans, Sons of Union Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy in many of their activities and re-enactments.  His efforts in Georgia were recognized by Governor Sonny Purdue.  He produced a detailed book documenting the major role of Chickamauga Park when it was a troop staging area prior to the Spanish-American War.

He researched the Underground Railroad and the local role of the 42nd and 44th U.S. Colored Troops while a consultant with the Chattanooga African American Museum. He authored several books including a history of Hill City and Beck Knob Cemetery and engaged in several preservation projects in partnership with the late Ms. Vilma Fields, former director of the Museum where he was affectionately called "Mr. E.".  He was also a founding member and a contributor to the National African American Museum in Washington which he had hoped to visit during its dedication.  He supported the local Medal of Honor Museum providing text for several historical markers and a book on the Civil War recipients of the National Medal of Honor in the local area.  The book “A Path To Valor” was awarded "Book of the Year" recognition in 2014 by the Tennessee Historical Commission.  All who knew him remain amazed by the legacy Raymond has left us in this area.

Ray was preceeded in death by his son, Edwin Evans.  

He is survived by his wife, Shirley McDonald Evans, daughter, Emmaline Evans and granddaughter, Carolina Evans, all of Red Bank; a sister, Anna Shockley of Corona, Ca., and his mother, Inez Evans, 100, also of Corona, Ca.; along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.  

A gathering of remembrance for family and friends will be held on Friday, July 1, from 5-8 p.m. at Mile Straight Baptist Church in Soddy. Refreshments will be provided.  Another remembrance gathering will be announced soon to be held at the Signal Mountain Church of Latter Day Saints.

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