Community turns out at pool renaming to honor Fred M. Evans

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 29, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Several dozen people on Saturday gathered at Lincoln Park to honor the late Fred M. Evans, but the pomp and circumstance means little unless his spirit lives on in Salisbury, said his son Fredrick Evans Jr.

During Saturday’s event, the City of Salisbury unveiled the newly renamed Fred M. Evans Pool. Salisbury native Wilson Cherry also announced a new Salisbury-Rowan Sports Hall of Fame award in honor of Fred M. Evans.

Fredrick Evans Jr. even made a confession during the ceremony. In his youth, he said people thought his dad owned the pool. Fredrick Evans Jr. joked that he used it to his advantage as child.

The Evans family asked attendees to think of the renaming ceremony as celebratory rather than sad. At the end of a string of kind comments from others, however, Fredrick Evans injected a dose of reality into the ceremony.

“We’ve got to take the same spirit that he had and bring it out into the community,” Fredrick Evans said. “There is no Fred M. Evans out in the community … This all means nothing if we’re not prepared to continue his legacy.”

Some Salisbury children are “running wild” without a mentor, Fredrick Evans Jr. said. Artwork displayed in the City of Salisbury means little unless Salisbury residents have control of their town, he said.

“We’re only as strong as the weakest link,” he said.

If the number of people who turned out to say a few kind words about Fred M. Evans is any indication, he was an invaluable community figure. He served as a lifeguard at Lincoln Pool and taught countless people to swim. He was the first black assistant principal at the formerly all-white Boyden High School during integration. Former Salisbury High Principal Windsor Eagle said Fred M. Evans was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition during integration.

“He offered his friendship. He offered his wisdom, and he explained a lot that I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Eagle said.

In the community, Fred M. Evans was also involved in a number of community organizations. He died last year.

In just a few words, some speakers during Saturday’s ceremony noted Fred M. Evans impact on individual lives.

“He kept me out of prison,” the speaker said.

Another said: “Mr. Evans was just like a father.”

Speakers noted that Fred M. Evans didn’t hesitate to speak his mind, but he was also always willing to provide his counsel and a helping hand. Whether it was a story about learning to swim or a life lesson, everyone seemed to have a nice word to say about Evans. More than one person noted that there was never a fatality from drowning during Evans’ time overseeing the pool. His daughter Janine Evans remarked that she learned how to count change at the pool.

During Saturday’s ceremony, Cherry said the Salisbury-Rowan Sports Hall of Fame would be handing out a new award this year in honor of Fred M. Evans. In August, Cherry said the Sports Hall of Fame would present the first ever “Fred M. Evans Community Service Award.” It will be presented to a person who has “contributed to the recreational and sports needs of Rowan County,” Cherry said.

Cherry concluded his remarks by noting a quote from the well-known sportswriter Grantland Rice.

“For when the one great scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the game,” the quote goes.

In his life, Fred M. Evans showed that he had ethics, morals, leadership, friendship and love, Cherry said.

“To the Evans family, I want to thank you for taking me into your home so many times and feeding me and looking out for me,” Cherry said. “I will never forget all the kind things that Fred M. Evans and the Evans family … has done for me over the years. God bless all of you and thank you for coming out to honor this great man.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.