Joe L. Evins was the “Dean” of Tennessee's congressional delegation during the 1960s and 1970s. Born in 1910 in DeKalb County to James Edgar Evins and Myrtie Goodson Evins, Joe L. Evins attended Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1933. The following year, he took his law degree from Cumberland University Law School.
From 1934 to 1941 Evins served on the staff of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., rising to the position of assistant secretary from 1939 to 1941. He served from 1942 to 1946 in the U.S. Army and was discharged as a major.
Upon his return home from the war, the young veteran entered politics and won election to the U.S. Congress from the Fourth Congressional District in 1946. Evins served in Congress for the next thirty years, at that time the longest period of continuous service in the House of Representatives by any congressman in Tennessee history. By 1960 the conservative Evins had achieved enough seniority to be a minor power in Congress; in 1964 he managed the Johnson-Humphrey presidential campaign in Tennessee. Once Johnson began his new presidential term, Evins found that his loyal service during the campaign benefited him greatly in acquiring federal dollars for projects such as the “Model Cities” program in his Middle Tennessee congressional district. “Seasoned Washington-watchers,” noted his biographer in 1971, “have sized up Joe L. Evins as one of the most influential men in government today.” (1)
Evins left Congress in 1977 and retired to his home in Smithville. He died in Nashville on March 31, 1984, and was buried in the Town Cemetery in Smithville.