Tributes continue to pour in from around the globe as Gospel music lovers remember the Reverend Clay Evans, who passed away on Wednesday, November 27, at the age of 94. Evans, a native of Brownsville, Tennessee relocated to Chicago during his formative years and joined the Lux Singers where he met and befriended a young James Cleveland. Evans would go on to organize the Fellowship Baptist Church of Chicago where he served as pastor for half a century. A pioneer in religious broadcasting, he reached the masses across the country and internationally with his What a Fellowship hour telecast featuring his legendary preaching and the church’s 200 voice choir. Reverend Evans recorded over 30 albums with the Fellowship Choir for the Jewel/Paula, Savoy and Meek Records labels.
A champion for civil rights, Reverend Evans was a staunch supporter of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was instrumental in the organization of Operation PUSH and served as a mentor and spiritual advisor to the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Reverend Clay Evans and the Ship returned to the Billboard Charts with the release of What A Legacy, a disc featuring early recordings of Reverend Evans and the Fellowship Choir. The disc was on the charts for more than 10 weeks, ascending to number 3 on the Top Gospel albums chart. Don Jackson honored Reverend Clay Evans for his vast contributions during the 2017 Stellar Awards and Fortress Press released Clay Evans’ Biography, The Last Blues Preacher, written by Zach Mills in 2018.
Current Fellowship Pastor Charles Jenkins praised Reverend Evans as a gospel music pioneer, a civil rights leader, a community staple and a trusted counselor to presidents governors, mayors and anyone needed support or advice.
“He was a consistent convener whenever there was a challenge or crisis in our city,” Jenkins stated. “He convened leadership to be a problem solver. He was an ecumenical bridge builder, a humanitarian for all mankind. He will be forever known as the Godfather of ministers, pastors and preachers.
“He will forever be remembered for his legacy through his biological family, his friends, his spiritual family and over 100 sons and daughters, millions of people who have been touched by his life and work around the world,” said Jenkins.
Reverend Jackson echoed those sentiments by saying, “There is a hole where our hearts used to be” for the “legend known as the gospel preacher.
“When Dr. King came to Chicago, churches closed the door in Dr. King’s face,” recalled Rev. Jackson. “Ministers had press conferences against Dr. King,” but there was a price Rev. Clay Evans paid for “having stood with Dr. King. This church stood bare for seven years because he couldn’t get finances.”
A week long series of events will take place beginning on Monday, December 2 at Fellowship with visitation and funeral services on Friday and Saturday.