Collections on Rev. Clay Evans
Scope and Contents
In 50 years, church membership rose from those original five to thousands. Many followers put their faith into action, and Rev. Clay Evans fostered clubs, committees and community service opportunities within Fellowship. Members planned anniversaries, sponsored teas, hosted conferences and organized concerts, to name but a few activities and fund-raisers. In 1994, a new Education Building was constructed on the site of the old church. The structural design included ample meeting spaces for expanded programs, seminars and events.
Rev. Clay Evans created over ten additional Ministries within Fellowship to address particular outreach needs or groups. These include AIDS & Substance Abuse Ministry, Bus Ministry, Christian Education Ministry, Food & Clothing Ministry, Senior Citizens Ministry, Youth Ministry and others. By 2002, the Fellowship Manor Senior Center completed his dream to add senior citizen housing to the list of church services.
Like a large family, Fellowship offered members opportunities to attend annual banquets, revivals and travel. In 1979, Rev. Evans led his first tour of holy sites in Israel where members had a chance to reconfirm their Baptist faith through baptism in the Jordan River.
On February 7, 2015 longtime members of the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church came together to contribute materials related to the church or to Reverend Clay Evans to supplement the Reverend Clay Evans Archive at the Chicago Public Library. These materials reflect their involvement in various clubs, events and service to the church from its earliest years.
- 1950 - 2016
- Evans-Reid, Lou Della (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Biographical / Historical
Born June 23, 1925 to Henry Clay and Estanauly Evans of Brownsville, Tennessee, Rev. Clay Evans was one of nine siblings. He left the Jim Crow South in 1945 to seek a better life in Chicago. In 1946, Rev. Evans married “the prettiest girl in the choir,” Lutha Mae Hollingshed. They had five children: Diane, Michael, Ralph, Claudette and Faith Renee; they also raised a nephew, Stevie Stewart.
Rev. Clay Evans was called to the Ministry in 1946. He received his Christian training from the Chicago Baptist Institute and the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. With only five members, Rev. Evans began his church on September 10, 1950. Under his dynamic leadership, Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church grew rapidly, becoming one of the most significant churches in Chicago. From Fellowship, Rev. Evans launched the ministerial careers of more than 90 people, including Mother Consuella York in 1954 and Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1968.
In 1954, Fellowship purchased a building at 46th and State Streets, which Rev. Evans recalled, “was a garage, but we turned it into a cathedral.” By 1959, Fellowship had outgrown the space, and Rev. Evans led a 1500-car motorcade as the congregation moved to a former Lutheran Church at 45th Street and Princeton Avenue. In 1963, with an ever-growing membership, Fellowship broke ground on a new building next door. Construction of the new church abruptly came to a halt in 1966. Rev. Clay Evans was one of the few pastors in the City to welcome Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement at a time when most business, religious and political leaders disapproved of his Northern campaign. Rev. Evans paid a price for following his conscience: the loans and permits for his new church were cancelled. For 7 years, the steel framework would bear witness to his defiance of the power brokers. With Rev. Jesse Jackson’s help, an interdenominational group of black and white pastors stood by Rev. Evans and a new building loan was approved December 18, 1971.
The circular structure of the new church was designed by Rev. Evans to include ample performance space for Fellowship’s choir and recording studio. Rev. Clay Evans’ Gospel music voice is recognized throughout the world. In 1952, just two years after founding Fellowship, he launched his radio ministry reaching beyond the walls of the church. In 1977, he moved to television with the acclaimed What a Fellowship Hour. With a choir led by his dynamic sister, Lou Della Evans-Reid, Fellowship has recorded over 40 albums, including the 1996 Stellar Award-winning I’ve Got a Testimony.
Rev. Evans’ organizational leadership transcended Fellowship. He opened the doors of his church, “the Ship,” to welcome Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to launch Operation Breadbasket and Operation PUSH with Rev. Jesse Jackson. His founding of the Broadcast Ministers Alliance and development of Concerned Clergy for a Better Chicago established new channels for African American empowerment in Chicago. He also founded the African American Religious Connection (AARC) and has helped lead the National Baptist Convention, DuSable Museum and Black National Religious Broadcasters, among others. A strong advocate for education, Rev. Evans established the Clay Evans Scholarship Fund (CE$F) which has supported the college dreams of high school students in Illinois and Tennessee for over forty years.
After 50 years of leadership, Rev. Evans retired in 2000 and passed the mantle to Rev. Charles Jenkins, his personally chosen successor. Nevertheless, an active schedule of ministry and community events continued after this date.
4.5 Linear Feet (in 10 boxes, including 147 photographs, 44 audio recordings, 7 artifacts)
Language of Materials
The Collections on Rev. Clay Evans brings together materials related to Rev. Clay Evans and Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church during the 50-year span of his leadership from 1950-2000. These materials reflect member involvement in choirs, clubs, committees and community service opportunities fostered by Rev. Evans and their participation in annual banquets, revivals and travel. The collection includes church documents, photographs, artifacts and musical recordings.
The Collections on Rev. Clay Evans is arranged into four series:
Series 1: Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, 1950-2016, undated
Series 2: Photographs, 1955-circa 2010, undated
Series 3: Audiovisual, 1975-2003, undated
Series 4: Art and Artifacts, 1978, 1995, 2000, undated
Artifacts are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Shortly after Rev. Clay Evans announced the gift of his archives to Chicago Public Library, church members were encouraged to contribute to the Rev. Clay Evans Archive Collection at a special event February 7, 2015 at the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. This collections includes the cumulative gifts made by: Rose R. Bibbs; Bill Brown; Dorothy Brown; Loteal Brown; Rev. Charlie Dates; Yolanda, Darryl and Maple Davis; Veronica Dillard; Cutee Dixon; James Dixon; Brenda McCray Flemming; Ann Harris; Clarice Harris; Claretta Higginbutton; Lloyd Hopson; Walterene Johnson; Adron Knighton; Loretta Lee; C. Betty Magness; LaTanya McCracken; Rev. Harolynn McIntosh; Athia Osborne; Diane Osborne; Lottie Pinkney; Bettie Pulliam; Lou Della Evans-Reid; Margaret Shearill; Helen Warren; Royal “Mickey” Warren; Celestine West; Artice M. Williams; Elizabeth Williams; Romia Woods and Latrece York.
- A.A.R.C. Mass Choir
- African American Baptists -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Sources Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African American Religious Connection
- African American gospel singers -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Sources Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Clay Evans Scholarship Fund (CE$F)
- Evans, Clay, Rev., 1925-2019
- Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (Chicago, Ill.)
- Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (Chicago, Ill.). Choir
- Gospel music -- Illinois -- Chicago Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Television broadcasting -- Religious Aspects -- Baptists Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- What A Fellowship Hour (Television Program) Subject Source: Local sources
- Guide to the Collections on Rev. Clay Evans
- Michelle McCoy, 2017. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Michelle McCoy, 2021.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
- 2021: Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Michelle McCoy,
Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository
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Chicago Public Library
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Chicago IL 60605 United States