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M. Stanton Evans

FUNERAL HOMILY FOR STAN EVANS

Delivered on March 12, 2005, at St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg, Viriginia.

By Fr. Vince Rigdon – 3.18.15

 

Stan Evans has gone home to God. It is truly the end of an era. We have bid farewell to giants like Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley. Now we commend to God a great journalist, a great thinker, a wonderful raconteur, and our good friend: M. Stanton Evans.

Everyone in this church has a story or many of them about Stan Evans. Since I’ve got the pulpit, I will tell you how we met:

It was at Columbia University in New York City during one of our periodic upheavals. Stan showed up to report the story. He wanted to get in touch with campus conservatives, and I was the Chairman of Columbia Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). He ended up staying with my good friend Michael Kogan. A graduate student in Philosophy, he was our elder statesman. Stan not only reported, he gave us encouragement and hope. We felt that we were part of something greater, and it was clear that Stan Evans truly was a mentor and guide.

Stan was only twenty-six when he wrote the Sharon Statement, the foundational document of YAF. The first clause would seem to sum up the driving force of his philosophy: THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual's use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force.

More than thirty years later, Stan would write his magnum opusThe Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition. It is well worth rereading. In a sense, it is the reason that we find ourselves here, in a Catholic church in Leesburg, Virginia attending his final farewell.

In this book, Stan makes a basic point. In fact, he summed this up in a C-SPAN interview in 1994: “The pedigree of our freedom is not hostile to our religious faith, but a product of our religious faith.” There is, of course, a lot more to his 366 page book. I recommend it to you — the C-SPAN interview can easily be found online, and can serve as something of a “CliffsNotes.” Researching for this homily, I viewed the interview, and I’m glad I did.

Stan answers some interesting and probing questions in the interview.

Question: “Are you religious?”

Stan: “I certainly am a believer. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a particularly pious person, and I don’t consider myself to be a particularly good Christian. I’m a believing Christian. But the book is not a book about piety or theology; it’s a book about politics.”

Question: “How much of your own religious beliefs led you to write the book?”

Stan: “I guess my religious beliefs led me to ask a lot of questions.”… He mentions the great influence that his mother and father had on him, and then he mentions that his grandfather was a Methodist minister. I never knew that; I’m glad to learn that.

This was typical Stan Evans: even and straightforward even when asked probing questions. The interview continues with Stan talking about the National Journalism Center and his work with it. He stressed that his goal was not to turn out Conservativejournalists, but honestjournalists. Men and women like himself.

Stan Evans lived a life of many virtues; among them was piety, in its original, Roman, sense: veneration for one’s forbears. In the same interview just mentioned, he began by speaking admiringly of his parents: his father, Medford Evans, who had been a professor, a writer, and a great inspiration to him, and his mother, Josephine, a classical scholar, who helped him with information for The Theme Is Freedom. Later this afternoon, he will be buried with both of them at Hamilton, Virginia.

Stan was a man of many interests. Even though he was not a member, he would often hear the music of the nearby Mount Zion United Methodist Church choir. He liked it so much that he left instructions that they be asked to sing at his funeral. I thank them so much for their faith-filled singing. He also left instructions in his will that I conduct his funeral. Of course, I am most honored and most grateful to him.

I will not give Stan’s full biography. I am sure that many eulogies will be given with many insights. Since this is not a Mass, we will have three at this service — and of course, there is the reception at Heritage tomorrow.

I had mentioned the National Journalism Center and the influence that Stan had on me as an undergraduate at Columbia. His whole life seemed to have a lot to do with mentoring the younger generation. I do not doubt that a lot of folks in this congregation are formerly young people who were touched and inspired by him. Each has a story to tell. I have told you mine; I will tell you just one more.

In the late 1990s, there was a young man, an undergraduate at Bonaventure University named Mario Calabrese. He was a Conservative and had first seen The Theme Is Freedom back in high school. He found himself heading up the Conservative student group at Bonaventure. The group was looking for a prominent speaker, who didn’t charge too much. This sound familiar?

Well, Stan Evans was the speaker, and came up to New York to give a presentation. As was his wont, he not only gave a talk, but went with his hosts to a local rathskeller to continue their education and his mentorship. (I remember this well from my own undergraduate experience some twenty years earlier.) Young Mr. Calabrese was impressed with this visiting speaker, and carefully read his recent book: The Theme is Freedom.

In fact, Stan’s talk was about his insights from his book, but he knew marketing: they needed a zippy title for his presentation. So he proposed one: “Why Liberals are wrong about everything.” That surely must have attracted a lot of interest on campus!

In reading the book, Mr. Calabrese discovered St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas as they had not been presented before. This planted a seed of interest in the Philosophia Perennis. Life went on, things developed, and I was introduced to him just before he entered the seminary, studying for the Order of Preachers — the Dominicans. St. Thomas Aquinas’ own order.

I’m sure that not all of Stan’s student admirers became journalists, but I would say that becoming a priest is one of the less common developments. Mario Calabrese kept in touch with Stan off and on, sometimes going to one of his presentations and saying hello afterwards.

Then came Stan’s final illness. He received care not far from here in Leesburg. By this time, Fr. Calabrese was ordained and working in a parish in Charlottesville, about two hours from here. Notified by Fran Griffin that Stan was dying, he visited him not once but four times. On the last of those occasions, he asked Stan whether or not he had been baptized. Stan replied that he really did not know; he couldn’t remember. Fr. Mario offered Baptism, and Stan accepted. He offered him the Sacraments and Stan accepted. That is why we are having the funeral here, and why I am so honored. Fr. Mario Calabrese is here with us. God used him as his instrument. It was a wonderful repayment for the gift which Stan had given him some twenty years ago.

 

 known as M. Stanton Evans (July 20, 1934 – March 3, 2015), was an American journalist, author and educator. He was the author of eight books, including Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies (2007). [1]

Early life and education[edit]

Evans was born in Kingsville in Kleberg County in South Texas, the son of Medford Bryan Evans, an author, college professor at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches,Louisiana, and official of the United States Atomic Energy Commission,[2] and the classics scholar Josephine Stanton Evans.[3] He grew up in ChattanoogaTennessee and theWashington, D.C. metropolitan area.[2]

Evans graduated in 1955 magna cum laude from Yale UniversityPhi Beta Kappa,[4] with a Bachelor of Arts in English, followed by graduate work in Economics at New York Universityunder Ludwig von Mises.[5]

Journalism[edit]

As an undergraduate, Evans was an editor for the Yale Daily News.[6] It was at Yale that he read One Is a Crowd by Frank Chodorov. In The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945George H. Nash writes:

It was the first libertarian book he [Evans] had ever read, and [he said] it 'opened up more intellectual perspectives to me than did the whole Yale curriculum.' Evans came to believe that Chodorov 'probably had more to do with the conscious shaping of my political philosophy than any other person'.[7]

Upon graduation, Evans became assistant editor of The Freeman, where Chodorov was editor.[8] The following year, he joined the staff of William F. Buckley's fledgling National Review (where he served as associate editor from 1960 to 1973),[9] and became managing editor of Human Events, where he remained a contributing editor until his death.[10]

Evans became a proponent of National Review co-editor Frank Meyer's "fusionism", a political philosophy reconciling the traditionalist and libertarian tendencies of the conservativemovement.[11] He argued that freedom and virtue are not antagonistic, but complementary:

The idea that there is some sort of huge conflict between religious values and liberty is a misstatement of the whole problem. The two are inseparable. ... [I]f there are no moral axioms, why should there be any freedom?[12]

The conservative believes that ours is a God-centered, and therefore an ordered, universe; that man’s purpose is to shape his life to the patterns of order proceeding from the Divine center of life; and that, in seeking this objective, man is hampered by a fallible intellect and vagrant will. Properly construed, this view is not only compatible with a due regard for human freedom, but demands it.[13]

In 1959, Evans became head editorial writer of The Indianapolis News,[9] rising to editor the following year—at 26, the nation's youngest editor of a metropolitan daily newspaper[4]—a position he held until 1974.[9] In 1971, Evans became a commentator for the CBS Television and Radio Networks, and in 1980 became a commentator for National Public Radio, theVoice of AmericaRadio America and WGMS in Washington, D.C.[14]

In 1974, he became a nationally syndicated columnist for The Los Angeles Times syndicate.[9] Barry Goldwater wrote that Evans "writes with the strength and conviction and authority of experience."[15] In a 1975 radio address, Ronald Reagan cited Evans as "a very fine journalist."[16] In 1977, he founded the National Journalism Center, where he served as director until 2002. In 1980, he became an adjunct professor of journalism at Troy University in Troy, Alabama,[17] where he held the Buchanan Chair of Journalism.[18]

From 1981–2002, he was publisher of Consumers' Research magazine. Evans expressed his journalistic philosophy as follows:

I don't think that the way to correct a spin from the left is to try to impart a spin from the right. ... [A]n information flow distorted from the right would be just as much a disservice as distortion from the left. What we really should be after ... is accurate information. And I don't see what any conservative or anybody else for that matter has to fear from accurate information.[19]

Political activism[edit]

Evans was present at Great Elm, the family home of William F. Buckley in SharonConnecticut, at the founding of Young Americans for Freedom,[20] where, on September 11, 1960, he drafted YAF's charter, the Sharon Statement.[21] Some conservatives still revere this document as a concise statement of their principles.[22]

From 1971 to 1977, Evans served as chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU).[23] He was one of the first conservatives to denounce U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, just a year into his first term, co-writing a January 1970 ACU report condemning his record. Under Evans' leadership, the ACU issued a July 1971 statement concluding, “the American Conservative Union has resolved to suspend our support of the Administration.” Evans often joked that he "never liked Nixon until Watergate."[24]

In June 1975, the ACU called upon former Governor Ronald Reagan of California to challenge incumbent Gerald R. Ford, Jr., for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination.[25] In June 1982, Evans and others met withPresident Reagan,[26] warning him about White House staff who thought they could make a deal with the Democratic Congress. (Reagan subsequently made such a deal, in which for each $1 in higher taxes Congress promised $3 in spending cuts; Reagan delivered the tax hike, but Congress reneged, actually increasing spending.)[27]

In 1974, upon leaving the since defunct The Indianapolis News after fifteen years, he taught journalism at Troy University in TroyAlabama for more than thirty years. From 1977 to 2002 he led the National Journalism Center inWashington, D.C., which was established with financial help from the conservative movement.[1] He founded the Education and Research Institute. He served as president of the Philadelphia Society,[28] a member of the Council for National Policy, the advisory board of Young Americans for Freedom, and a trustee of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI),[29] and is a member of the Board of Advisers of the National Tax Limitation Committee. Evans has also been an effective plaintiff in numerous Federal Court cases involving the First Amendment issue of "freedom of information."[30]

Honors[edit]

Evans was awarded honorary doctorates from Syracuse UniversityJohn Marshall Law SchoolGrove City College and Francisco Marroquín University.[31] He is a past winner of two Freedom Foundation awards for editorial writing and the National Headliners Club Award for “consistently outstanding editorial pages.”[32] Evans was also awarded the Heartland Institute's Heartland Freedom Prize,[33] the Media Research Center's William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence,[34] Accuracy in Media's Reed Irvine award for excellence in journalism,[35] the American Spectators Barbara Olson Award for Excellence & Independence in Journalism,[36] the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs' John M. Ashbrook Award,[37] the ISI's Regnery Award for Distinguished Institutional Service[38] and four Freedoms Foundation George Washington medals.[39] Troy University's Hall School of Journalism hosts an annual  M. Stanton Evans symposium named in his honor, as is the M. Stanton Evans Alumni Award.[40]

Becky Norton Dunlop, an official of the Heritage Foundation, said that Evans had a sense of humor that

just naturally made people laugh. He had a way of making everyone in his presence pay attention to what he was saying just by the way he said it. And while your sides were splitting with laughter, you were thinking about what he was saying. He also imparted a love for great books and introduced many a young conservative to works that had somehow not made it into their college curriculum. His great book, The Theme is Freedom should be on the shelf of every person who loves freedom. Many of today’s conservative leaders owe much to the lessons, the leadership, the energy and, yes, the humor of M. Stanton Evans. ...[41]

 

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