Frances Octavia Smith
October 31, 1912
Uvalde, Texas, U.S.
|Died||February 7, 2001 (aged 88)|
Apple Valley, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Sunset Hills Memorial Park, Apple Valley|
Thomas Frederick Fox
(m. 1927; div. 1929)
(m. 1947; died 1998)
Evans was born Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas, to Bettie Sue Wood and T. Hillman Smith.[a] She had a tumultuous early life. She spent a lot of time living with her uncle, Dr. L.D. Massey MD FACP, an internal medicine physician, in Osceola, Arkansas. At age 14, she eloped with and married Thomas F. Fox, with whom she had one son, Thomas F. Fox Jr., when she was 15. A year later, abandoned by her husband, she found herself in Memphis, Tennessee, a single parent pursuing a career in music. She landed a job with local radio stations (WMC and WREC), singing and playing piano. Divorced in 1929, she took the name Dale Evans while working at radio station WHAS in the early 1930s after the station manager suggested it because he believed she could promote her singing career with a short pleasant sounding name that announcers and disc jockeys could easily pronounce.
After beginning her career singing at the radio station where she was employed as a secretary, Evans had a productive career as a jazz, swing, and big band singer that led to a screen test and contract with 20th Century Fox studios. She gained exposure on radio as the featured singer for a time on the Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy show.
Throughout this early period, Evans went through two additional failed marriages, first with August Wayne Johns from 1929 to 1935; then with accompanist and arranger Robert Dale Butts from 1937 to 1946. Neither marriage produced children. During her time at 20th Century Fox, the studio promoted her as the unmarried supporter of her teenage "brother" Tommy (actually her son Tom Fox, Jr.), a deception that continued through her divorce from Butts in 1946 and her development as a cowgirl co-star to Roy Rogers at Republic Studios.
Evans married Roy Rogers on New Year's Eve 1947 at the Flying L Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma, where they had earlier filmed the movie Home in Oklahoma. The successful marriage was Rogers' second and Evans' third; the two were a team on- and off-screen from 1946 until Rogers' death in 1998. Shortly after the wedding, Evans ended the deception regarding her son Tommy. Roy had an adopted daughter, Cheryl, and two biological children, Linda and Roy Jr. (Dusty), from his second marriage. Together they had one child, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down syndrome shortly before her second birthday. Her life inspired Evans to write her bestseller Angel Unaware. Evans was very influential in changing public perceptions of children with developmental disabilities and served as a role model for many parents. After she wrote Angel Unaware, a group then known as the “Oklahoma County Council for Mentally Retarded Children” adopted its better-known name Dale Rogers Training Center in her honor. She went on to write a number of religious and inspirational books, and she and Roy appeared many times with Billy Graham in Crusades all over the country, singing gospel songs and giving their testimony. Evans and Rogers adopted four other children: Mimi, Dodie, Sandy, and Debbie.
From 1951 to 1957, Evans and Rogers starred in the highly-successful television series The Roy Rogers Show, in which they continued their cowboy and cowgirl roles, with her riding her trusty buckskin horse, Buttermilk. Alice Van-Springsteen served as a double for both Evans and Gail Davis, the actress who starred in the syndicated series Annie Oakley, often performing such tasks as tipping over wagons and jumping railroad tracks. In addition to her successful TV shows, more than 30 films and some 200 songs, Evans wrote the song "Happy Trails". In later episodes of the program, she was outspoken in her Christianity, telling people that God would assist them with their troubles and imploring adults and children to turn to Him for guidance. In late 1962, the couple co-hosted a comedy-western-variety program, The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, which aired on ABC. It was canceled after three months, losing in the ratings to the first season of The Jackie Gleason Show.
In 1964, Evans spoke at a "Project Prayer" rally attended by 2,500 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The gathering, which was hosted by actor Anthony Eisley, star of ABC's Hawaiian Eye series, sought to flood the United States Congress with letters in support of mandatory school prayer, following two decisions in 1962 and 1963 of the United States Supreme Court which struck down mandatory prayer as conflicting with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Joining Evans and Eisley at the Project Prayer rally were Walter Brennan, Lloyd Nolan, Rhonda Fleming, Pat Boone, and Gloria Swanson. Evans declared, "It's high time that all America stood up to be counted. Let our children learn of the Lord and be free." Eisely and Fleming added that Rogers, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Mary Pickford, Jane Russell, Ginger Rogers, and Pat Buttram would have attended the rally had their schedules permitted. In the 1970s, Evans recorded several solo albums of religious music. During the 1980s, the couple introduced their films weekly on the former The Nashville Network. In the 1990s, Evans hosted her own religious television program.
For her contribution to radio, Evans has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6638 Hollywood Blvd. She received a second star at 1737 Vine St. for her contribution to the television industry. In 1976, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1997, she was inducted into the Texas Trail of Fame. She ranked No. 34 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002.
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, a daughter of Roy Rogers and step-daughter of Evans, co-authored Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Frank Thompson.
In her exhibit at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Evans is quoted as follows:
- Orchestra Wives (1942)
- Girl Trouble (1942)
- Swing Your Partner (1943)
- The West Side Kid (1943)
- Hoosier Holiday (1943)
- Here Comes Elmer (1943)
- In Old Oklahoma (1943)
- Casanova in Burlesque (1944)
- Cowboy and the Senorita (1944)
- The Yellow Rose of Texas (1944)
- Song of Nevada (1944)
- San Fernando Valley (1944)
- Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944)
- The Big Show-Off (1945)
- Utah (1945)
- Bells of Rosarita (1945)
- The Man from Oklahoma (1945)
- Hitchhike to Happiness (1945)
- Along the Navajo Trail (1945)
- Sunset in El Dorado (1945)
- Don't Fence Me In (1945)
- Song of Arizona (1946)
- Rainbow Over Texas (1946)
- My Pal Trigger (1946)
- Under Nevada Skies (1946)
- Roll on Texas Moon (1946)
- Home in Oklahoma (1946)
- Out California Way (1946)
- Heldorado (1946)
- Apache Rose (1947)
- Bells of San Angelo (1947)
- The Trespasser (1947)
- Slippy McGee (1948)
- Susanna Pass (1949)
- Down Dakota Way (1949)
- The Golden Stallion (1949)
- Bells of Coronado (1950)
- Twilight in the Sierras (1950)
- Trigger, Jr. (1950)
- South of Caliente (1951)
- Pals of the Golden West (1951)
- For unknown reasons, the doctor who attended the birth recorded the baby's name as Lucille Wood Smith, a fact of which she was unaware until the 1950s, when she needed a copy of her birth certificate in order to obtain a passport.
- White, Raymond E. (2005). King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-2992-1004-5 – via Google Books.
- White, p. 4.
- Miller Davis, Elise (1955). The Answer is God (First ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. pp. 59–62. LCCN 55009539.
- Dale Evans' biography Archived February 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, royrogers.com; accessed May 16, 2014.
- "Dale Evans Biography". The Roy Rogers – Dale Evans Museum. Archived from the original on February 17, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2008.
- Happy Trails Forever – Honoring the *King of the Cowboys* & *Queen of the West*, Roy Rogers & Dale Evans – Their Story
- Staff (July 7, 1998). "Roy Rogers, 'King of the Cowboys' Dies". Los Angeles Times.
- Dale Evans at IMDb
- Drew Pearson (May 14, 1964). "The Washington Merry-Go-Round" (PDF). dspace.wrlc.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
- Critchlow, Donald T. (October 21, 2013). When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics. ISBN 9781107650282.
- Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. pp. 235–37. ISBN 978-0762741014. OCLC 70284362.
- Handbook of Texas Music
- "Great Western Performers - National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
- "Dale Evans - Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum". Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
- "Dale Evans". Western Heritage from the Texas Trail of Fame. May 24, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
- Shelburne, Craig (August 29, 2002). "40 Greatest Women of Country Music". Country Music Television. Archived from the original on October 14, 2002. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
- Cheryl Rogers-Barnett and Frank Thompson, Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Lanham, Maryland, 2003; ISBN 1-58979-026-X
- Dale Evans profile, cowgirl.com; accessed February 25, 2015.
- Dale Evans Rogers exhibit, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars (by date of dedication); accessed May 16, 2014.
- White, Ray. King of the Cowboys, Queen of the West: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (University of Wisconsin Press).
- Rogers, Roy, and Evans, Dale, with Jane and Michael Stern. Happy Trails: Our Life Story (Thorndike Press, Thorndike, Maine).
- Zwisohn, Laurence. (1998). "Dale Evans". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 166–7.