Washington State Legacy project features Former first lady Evans

Nancy Evans, Washington’s first lady for 12 years and a civic and cultural activist for all seasons, is the latest citizen to be spotlighted by “The Legacy Project,” the oral history program formed in 2008 by the Office of the Secretary of State.

The Nancy Evans oral history, which is available online at http://www.secstate.wa.gov/legacyproject/ , includes a biography, interview, photographs and links to additional resources. All of the materials are free.

A rollout ceremony to celebrate the oral history was hosted by Secretary of State Sam Reed and First Gentleman Mike Gregoire at the Governor’s Mansion in September.

“I am so excited to share Nancy Evans’ story as part of our state-of-the-art Legacy Project,” said Reed. “She is truly an inspiring figure who used her position as first lady of Washington to improve the life of citizensShe truly did it all. Reading her story brings to mind the many extraordinary Washingtonians whose lives were an integral part of our state’s heritage. The Legacy Project, a part of the Heritage Center, is a fiscally responsible program that preserves these important stories for years to come.”

Fifty years ago this summer, the grade-school music teacher from Spokane married a young engineer named Dan Evans, never dreaming that within five years he would become governor and they would be living in the Governor’s Mansion. At 31 in 1965, she became the youngest first lady in state history.

Nancy Evans is widely acknowledged for her central role in the decrepit Governor’s Mansion, allowing it to remain accessible and open to the public. The beautiful Georgian mansion, the first building constructed on the Capitol Campus, was initially intended as a temporary venue to welcome dignitaries who were visiting the Alaskan Yukon Exposition in Seattle 100 years ago. But thanks to the work of Mrs. Evans and her band of volunteers, the mansion was preserved and today attractions thousands of visitors every year. As an activist first lady, Mrs. Evans also sparked fresh interest in history and the arts in Olympia and she continues her wide array of civic activities today.

The Nancy Evans oral history interviews were conducted by John C. Hughes, chief oral historian for The Legacy Project. Hughes, a trustee of the State Historical Society and former editor and publisher, also wrote the biographical profile.

Established in 2008, the Legacy Project publishes oral histories and biographies of Washingtonians who have been instrumental in shaping the state’s history. Recent oral histories published include Astronaut Bonnie J. Dunbar, Bremerton civil rights pioneer Lillian Walker, and Krist Novoselic, the Nirvana rocker who became a civic activist. The Evans story is the eighth to be e-published.

The Legacy Project is a partner in the Washington State Heritage Center. All stories can be found at http://www.secstate.wa.gov/legacyproject/OralHistories.aspx .