Joe L. Evins

Joe L. Evins
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1953  January 3, 1977
Preceded by Albert Gore, Sr.
Succeeded by Albert Gore, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1947  January 3, 1953
Preceded by Harold Earthman
Succeeded by Percy Priest
Personal details
Born (1910-10-24)October 24, 1910
DeKalb County, Tennessee
Died March 31, 1984(1984-03-31) (aged 73)
Nashville, Tennessee
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Vanderbilt University
Cumberland School of Law
George Washington University

Joseph Landon Evins (October 24, 1910 March 31, 1984) was a Democratic U.S. Representative from Tennessee from 1947 to 1977.

Evins was a native of the Blend Community of DeKalb County, Tennessee, the son of James Edgar Evins and Myrtie Goodson Evins.[1] His father was a Tennessee state senator and a successful local businessman.[2]

Joe L. Evins graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1933 and the Cumberland School of Law in Lebanon, Tennessee in 1934, as well as The George Washington University.[3] He was admitted to the bar in that same year and began practice in Smithville, county seat of DeKalb County.[3]

In 1935 Evins was named a staff attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, and served in this position until 1938, when he was named the FTC's assistant secretary, a position which he held until 1940.[3] Shortly after U.S. entry into World War II, he was commissioned in the United States Army Judge Advocate General Corps, serving on active duty until 1946, when he resumed his law practice in Smithville.[3] Upon his return, he was also elected chairman of the DeKalb County Democratic Party. Later in that same year, he won the nomination of the Democratic Party for the seat from the 5th District. He won the election easily in this solidly-Democratic area, and was re-elected to fourteen more terms, generally with little or no opposition. His district was renumbered the 4th after the 1950 Census, when Tennessee lost a congressional district.

Evins was a powerful figure in Congress. He was chairman of the House Select Committee on Small Business for six years, and for the following Congressional session of the United States House Committee on Small Business, and served on the important House Appropriations Committee. He used his influence to make sure that his district, a mostly rural area east and south of Nashville, was well taken-care of; Smithville was the smallest city chosen for participation in the Model Cities Program and its major thoroughfare was renamed "Congressional Boulevard." The Tennessee Technological University Appalachian Center for Craft near Smithville was built with a $5 million federal grant that Evins secured as a member of the Appropriations Committee.[4] Like most of his constituents, Evins was a conservative Democrat; he was slow to accept racial desegregation, not because of deep-seated personal bigotry but because it was a change to what had long been the accepted order of things. However, he was one of three Tennessee Democratic congressmen not to sign the Southern Manifesto.

Evins decided not to stand for re-election in 1976, after serving a total of 15 terms. At the time of his retirement in January 1977, his continuous service in the U.S. House of Representatives was longer than that of any other House member from Tennessee.[1][5][6] In a spirited primary to succeed him, Al Gore won and began his political career.

Evins' family was, and remains, very prominent in Middle Tennessee. His father is the namesake of Edgar Evins State Park near Smithville. One of his brother's children ran a local bank. Another nephew, Dan Evins, was the founder of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant chain.[7] His wife, Ann Smartt, with whom he had three daughters, was the daughter of a McMinnville judge.[8]

Evins died in Nashville March 31, 1984, and is buried in the Smithville Town Cemetery in Smithville.


  1. 1 2 Carroll Van West, "Joseph Landon Evins, 1910-1984," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture.
  2. The History of Evins Mill, accessed July 8, 2008
  3. 1 2 3 4 Joe L. Evins at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  4. About the Appalachian Center for Craft, Appalachian Center for Craft website, accessed July 8, 2008
  5. Who was Joe L. Evins?, DeKalb County, Tennessee website, accessed July 8, 2008
  6. B. Carroll Reece, who died early in his 18th term in Congress, served longer in the House of Representatives than anyone else in Tennessee history, but his House tenure was not continuous. Jimmy Quillen served 17 consecutive terms in the House, breaking Evins' record for the longest continuous tenure in the House for a Tennessee congressman.
  7. Langer, Emily (2012-01-16). "Dan Evins, founder of Cracker Barrel highway empire, dies". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  8. Joe L. Evins, in Tennessee Blue Book, 1975-1978, page 49
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Harold Earthman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
J. Percy Priest
Preceded by
Albert Gore, Sr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Albert S. Gore, Jr.
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