Leonard Evans Jr. of McKinney by many accounts was a trailblazer. Evans had a knack for connecting with people. He was an educator in McKinney for more than 32 years.
"He always made the best out of any situation," said daughter, Terrye Evans.
Evans died Tuesday night after a brief battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The family told WFAA that he had been battling the disease since August.
Evans was an educator at a time when McKinney schools were segregated. He was a coach and teacher at Doty, which was the all-black school. George Webb was a great friend and was on the school board back in 1965.
"I had the privilege to make the motion to integrate," Webb said. George said that Evans had the fortitude and the personality to make the integration of schools work. It was Evans who led the charge, the first black teacher in an all-white school.
"It was pretty scary. It wasn't like people just holding up signs. People really didn't want us there," Terrye said.
Three children vividly remember hiding in the backseat of their family car while heading to school. Terrye recalls her father being a no-nonsense, task-oriented, and yet caring, person. She said it was those qualities that made him a beloved figure in McKinney.
"Leonard was the kind of person that was not intimidated. He would tell you what he thought. Every time you met him, you were always glad you did," Webb said.
People all over DFW remember Leonard Evans as "Coach." Either it was in the classroom, on the field, or behind the wheel in driving schools, he connected with so many children.
"My spiritual side says it's ok. My natural side says I want you to come back," said Ralph Evans, his son.
The district would name a middle school after him in 2004. He took pride in that. "It meant a lot. You couldn't tell him nothing after that," said Leonard Evans, his son.
His legacy is immeasurable. He was a pioneer during a rocky time in our history.
"Because he was so loved, we will be constantly reminded of what a great man he is and what big shoes we have to fill," Terrye said.
McKinney ISD sent out the following statement:
We were saddened to receive the news that Leonard Evans, namesake of Evans Middle School, has passed away.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact that Mr. Evans had on McKinney ISD during the 1960’s and beyond. In the era of segregation, he was a pioneer, transferring in 1963 from his job as a coach and teacher at McKinney’s segregated Doty High School to Finch Elementary to become the first African-American teacher to serve at a white campus in MISD.
During his 31 years with the district, Mr. Evans served as a bus driver, math teacher, coach and principal and received several Teacher of the Year awards. In 1989, he became the district’s first black school board member, a position in which he served for 16 years.
It would be impossible to calculate the full impact Mr. Evans has had on the lives of MISD students and the community at large over the years.
But, his courage and character made McKinney a better place. And, he will be deeply missed.
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