Almost a year ago today, my friend Jack Evans gained some fame here in Dallas and even nationally by being a member of the first same sex couple to be married in Dallas County after last year’s Supreme Court landmark decision legalizing such unions. When he and his husband George Harris, together since 1961, were married by my friend Judge Dennise Garcia, he and George made the national news by virtue of the longevity of their relationship and the decision that granted them a right to marriage.
A few months before the day in June 2015 that made their marriage official, I witnessed Jack and George’s ceremony as they were married in a church by another friend, Rev. Bill McElvaney. For Bill, this was an act of resistance against the denial of marriage rights for same-sex couples and the Methodist Church that bans its clergy from performing such ceremonies, or from being lesbian or gay. Suffering from terminal cancer, Bill didn’t live long enough to see the former pass away.
Lack of these formal steps didn’t define Jack and George’s relationship of more than fifty years—the ceremony, the official marriage license. Those steps did, however, give long overdue acknowledgement of that relationship and the rights that come with equality of marriage under the law.
For eight decades, both men have been witnesses to the gradual changes in US society and how it treats its LGBT members. I wish I knew more about what those early days must have been like for the two of them. Recently, they both initiated a project to document the history of the LGBT community in Dallas, a project that has increased in commitment and participation. One of the efforts as part of this documentation is to collect and retain expressions of grief left by members of the Dallas community in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando.
Jack lived long enough to be aware of the worst mass shooting in the United States, so far. Unfortunately, he died just a few days short of the anniversary when he and George made it legal at the Dallas County Courthouse.
I remember Jack as a kind and cheerful man, always literally a head above most members of the congregation of the church I attend. And George. When I taught a social media workshop, he was my most eager student. His posts on Facebook were exactly like he was in life—positive and uplifting.
Jack Evans will be greatly missed by all who knew him, but he leaves an important legacy behind. The community rallies around George just as he rallied around so many in the LGBT community. Without a doubt, I’m proud to have known him and will miss him greatly.