James M. Evans, Jr.: A Tribute

Dec 4, 2008

by Robert Carter Arnold, Director, NASW Foundation

Remarks at Jim Evans’s Funeral, November 14, 2008, Silver Spring, MD

Thank you for the opportunity to be here and to highlight some of Jim’s contributions and impact at the National level.

I am honored to be here today representing the National Office of the National Association of Social Workers and our 150,000 social worker members.

My name is Bob Arnold, and I am Director of the NASW Foundation.

I met Jim soon after joining NASW in 2001, through Jim’s involvement with the Whitney Young, Jr., Memorial Lecture and Tea—and the Verne Lyons Scholarship Committee.

[You’ve already heard about Jim from Dr. Charles Howard and Dr. Sheryl Brissette-Chapman.]

Jim was a member of NASW for nearly 50 years, having been a member continually since 1961.

In 1976, Jim was awarded the National Social Worker of the Year Award from NASW. At that the time, he was Executive Director of the Urban League of Nebraska.

That same year—1976—Jim joined the NASW National Office staff. For the next 7 years, Jim served as Senior Staff Associate…working with Clinical Practice, Minority Affairs, the Student Intern Program, and Chapter Services.

After that, when Jim went to work at the NASW Metro Chapter, he continued his volunteer involvement at the national level of NASW.

His many National Office activities included:

PACE: where he served on the National Board of Directors of NASW’s political action committee;

The Whitney Young, Jr., Memorial Lectures:

The NASW Black Caucus:

The African American Development Fund: and

The Verne Lyons Scholarship Fund. Jim was instrumental in helping to establish the scholarship in 1989 and in helping to raise funds for it over the years. He was a lifetime member of the Scholarship Committee.

Some of you here today knew Verne LaMarr Lyons—an NASW national staff member who died in 1989, while waiting for a heart transplant. The scholarship is a memorial to him and is awarded each year to a social work master’s degree candidate in health or mental health practice who has a commitment to working in the African American community.

Scholarship recipients now work in hospitals, medical clinics, and social services agencies that provide treatment and specialized services to African American patients.

Here is what some of the recent Lyons scholarship recipients are doing today:
Alex Rhodes is a psychosocial coordinator at one of Chicago’s oldest AIDS service organizations.
Pamela Smith works in health practice, particularly with African Americans, educating the community about heart disease.

Alisha Ellis…raised in Harlem, is now an advocate for underserved African Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness and HIV/AIDS. She also works with children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect.

Each of these young social workers was influenced and encouraged in part because of Jim. And the Verne Lyons Scholarships will continue each year into the future, allowing future students to have an opportunity to pursue careers of helping others—as did Jim.

I had the opportunity to ask various National Office staff what they remembered about Jim:

“He was always there.”

“A tireless activist.”

“His community-based advocacy work for poor and vulnerable people.”

“His commitment to ensuring that minority social workers—and black social workers in particular—had a rightful place in the profession.”

“Always working to seek change.”

“Three issues: Civil Rights, Child Welfare, and Poverty.”

Jim Evans had a tremendous impact during his life. He helped improve the lives of those in need and he served as a mentor and role model for hundreds—even thousands—of colleagues and young social workers.

We at the National Association of Social Workers salute his accomplishments—and are committed to continuing his legacy—and carrying forward the important issues to which he dedicated his life.

To leave a tribute to James, please click on the comments link below.