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Dr. Melvin Evans

Melvin Evans achieved distinction as the first popularly elected governor of the Virgin Islands—a multi–island territory in the eastern Caribbean. As the first black Delegate to represent the American territory in the U.S. Congress, Evans used his political experience to promote health care, education, and other areas of concern to his constituents during his brief tenure in the House of Representatives. “A man of conviction and high integrity, Congressman Evans would not be swayed from his principles,” asserted Representative Donald Clausen of California. “A spokesman for the common man, he assured that the interests of his constituents were never overlooked.”1Melvin Herbert (Mel) Evans was born in Christiansted, St. Croix, on August 7, 1917, soon after the United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark. After graduating from high school on St. Thomas, Evans received a bachelor of science degree in 1940 from Howard University and an M.D. from the Howard University College of Medicine in 1944. In 1945, Evans married Mary Phyllis Anderson, a nurse he met in a New York hospital; the couple had four sons: William, Melvin, Jr., Robert, and Cornelius.2 During the next 15 years he served in a variety of medical and public health posts at hospitals and institutions in the United States and the Virgin Islands. From 1959 to 1967 Evans served as the Commissioner of Health for the Virgin Islands; he also was the chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Human Resources from 1962 to 1966. In 1967 he furthered his academic credentials by earning a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley. He returned to private practice for two years before President Richard M. Nixon appointed him governor of the Virgin Islands. In August 1968 Congress passed the Virgin Islands Elective Governor Act, providing for the election of a governor by the territory’s residents. Evans was elected as a Republican to the governor’s office in 1970 and served until 1975. After his unsuccessful bid for re–election in 1974, he was Republican National Committeeman from the Virgin Islands and chairman of the board of trustees of the College of the Virgin Islands.3In 1972, Congress authorized nonvoting Delegates for the Virgin Islands and Guam in the House of Representatives.4 When the first Delegate of the Virgin Islands, Democrat Ron de Lugo, announced his decision to leave the House at the end of the 95th Congress (1977–1979) to run for governor of the American territory, Evans entered the 1978 general election to fill his open seat. In a tight race, Evans narrowly defeated Democrat Janet Watlington, a congressional aide to de Lugo, with 52 percent of the vote, to become the Virgin Islands’s first black Delegate.5 Sworn in to the 96th Congress (1979–1981) on January 3, 1979, Evans served on the Armed Services, Interior and Insular Affairs, and Merchant Marine and Fisheries committees. During his congressional career, Evans paid close attention to the needs of his unique constituency, focusing on a legislative agenda

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