Recently, family, friends and dignitaries gathered at Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles to celebrate the designation of the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness at Olympic National Park honoring Washington’s distinguished three-term governor and U.S. senator.
Today, America needs a calming voice of reason — a steady and measured leader with the strength, experience, and ability to unify our nation. Daniel J. Evans fits that mold.
At 91, Evans is still spry and fit. His legacy is he worked with Democrats as well as Republicans to get things done. They trusted him.
“In fact, to be called a ‘Dan Evans Republican’ still today bespeaks a high calling of bipartisanship and effectiveness in public service,” long-time Democrat Congressman Norm Dicks (Bremerton) told the Seattle Times.
Evans grew up in Seattle and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. After graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1943, he served in the Navy as an ensign during World War II. Before returning to active duty as a lieutenant in 1951 during the Korean War, Evans earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the University of Washington.
He was first elected to the state legislature from Seattle in 1956, and in 1964 defeated two-time Democrat Gov. Albert Rosellini.
As governor, Evans quickly rose to national prominence. In 1968, his Republican Convention keynote speech landed him on the cover of Time Magazine that August. There was talk of Evans being Richard Nixon’s running mate. That was just talk. However, in 1976, Gerald Ford had Evans on the final list before picking Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas
In 1983, Gov. John Spellman (R) appointed Evans to replace the late Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who died suddenly while serving in the U.S. Senate. Evans won election to the Senate before retiring in 1989.
Evans was a champion for the environment. In the U.S. Senate, he authored the Washington Wilderness Act setting aside 1.5 million acres of federal wildlands. While governor, he convened a special legislative session in 1970 to authorize setting up the Department of Ecology.
Evans led our state through tumultuous and fragile times.
Our nation was torn apart by the Vietnam War and student protests. The tipping point came on May 4, 1970 when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on Kent State University protestors killing four students and wounding nine others. A nation-wide strike by four million people ensued shutting down the entire country.
Evan quickly recognized his job was to restore order and calm the outrage here in Washington.
As governor, Evans faced challenging economic times. The so-called Boeing Bust in the early 1970s saw Seattle’s unemployment rate soar to 25 percent. At the time, Boeing accounted for 45 percent of the region‘s economy and its 103,000 workforce was slashed in half.
Fast-forwarding to 2017, America needs a Dan Evans-like leader — one who has his experience, skill and temperament. Our country has faced tough divisive times before and survived because of elected officials like Evans.
We also could use a dose of his humility — a humility I saw first-hand in 1967 when, as a University of Montana student, I was hired to run the photo lab at the Western Governor’s Conference in West Yellowstone.
At the time, the media attention was focused on California Gov. Ronald Reagan whose visit was well choreographed. Reagan flew in, arrived at the conference by stagecoach, gave the banquet address, and immediately jetted back to Sacramento leaving Evans and his colleagues to do the conference’s work.
Dan Evans arrived unceremoniously with his family, rolled up his sleeves and quietly worked with his colleagues to accomplish a regional agenda. Isn’t that what we need today — a half century later?
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.