Samuel L. Evans (laying down) and Rotan Lee (seated, second from right)

Date
1940s
Medium
Photography
Credit Line
John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA

In this photograph of Samuel L. Evans (1902–2008) surrounded by children, Mosley conveys the warm and playful atmosphere of a relaxed afternoon in the park. Seated second from right is a young Rotan Lee, who would grow up to become a lawyer, civil rights activist, president of the School District of Philadelphia Board of Education (replaced by the School Reform Commission), and chairman of the Philadelphia Gas Commission (the regulating agency for Philadelphia Gas Works).

Evans was born in Florida and spent his formative years in the Jim Crow South, where he witnessed five lynchings by the time he was nine years old. During his late teens, he migrated first to New York City and settled in Philadelphia. Evans was influential in Democratic politics from the 1920’s until 2008 and often referred to himself as the oldest living Democrat in the nation. In the 1940’s, Evans was committed to educational innovation, was appointed to the Physical Fitness Commission by President Roosevelt. He founded the American Foundation for Negro Affairs (AFNA) in 1968, which provided aid to African Americans, Hispanics, and economically disadvantaged students seeking professional careers in medicine, law, computer science, and the creative and performing arts. Evans was also involved in the founding of the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra and became the first black man to gain admittance to the International Society of Impresarios.

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  • Rotan Lee was my Law Partner at Fox Rothschild,LLP. My wife and I have a fond memory of spending Christmas Eve at Rotan and Gracie's home in Overbrook. We recall sharing a joyous Holiday celebration with many of their friends; but, what stands out most in our memory is the multi-racial composition of the celebrants and the warm and hospitable atmosphere created by Rotan and Gracie. Thanks for jogging our memory and for this wonderful exhibition of photographs.

    Stanley and Lita Cohen