Silliman Evans Sr. was owner and publisher of the Nashville Tennessean from 1937 until his death in 1955. During his years as publisher he also held directorships at American Airlines and Maryland Casualty and key positions in the state and national Democratic Party. After his death his son Silliman Evans Jr. was publisher from 1955 until his death in 1961 at the age of thirty-six. The newspaper's name changed to the Tennessean in 1963.
Silliman Evans Sr. was born April 2, 1894, in Joshua, Texas. The son of a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, he began his career as a thirteen-year-old printer's apprentice on the DeLeon Press in Comanche County, Texas. He attended Polytechnic College, which later became Southern Methodist University. He held newspaper jobs in Waco and Houston and from 1918 to 1928 held various positions for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. During this time, he became its top political writer and Washington correspondent. He married Lucille McCrea on November 20, 1923, and they had two sons: Silliman Evans Jr. and Amon Carter Evans.
From 1928 to 1932 he worked for Texas Air Transport, which later became American Airlines, and advanced to assistant to the president before becoming involved in politics. In 1932 his friendship with John Nance Garner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, led Evans to managing press relations for Garner's presidential campaign.
In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Evans as fourth assistant postmaster general, a position he held until 1934, when he resigned to accept the presidency of the Maryland Casualty Company of Baltimore. But within a few years, he was eager to get back into the newspaper business and wanted to create a southern editorial voice in support of Roosevelt's New Deal policies.
On January 7, 1937, Evans purchased the Nashville Tennessean at a public auction for $850,000. The nearly bankrupt newspaper, which had a circulation of 76,275, had been in federal receivership. Evans took over management on April 17 and within forty-five days had the newspaper in the black again.
Shortly after Evans purchased the newspaper, he established a joint printing agreement with James G. Stahlman, publisher of the Nashville Banner. Under the terms of the agreement, Evans dropped his newspaper's evening edition and Stahlman dropped his Sunday edition. Within a year, he persuaded H. G. Hill to build and lease a new office and publishing facility at 1100 Broadway, which the two newspapers shared until the Banner closed in 1998.
In June 1955, against the advice of his physician, Evans traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, to attend the funeral of publisher Amon G. Carter, his longtime friend and associate and the man for whom his younger son was named. While there, Evans suffered a heart attack. He died on June 26, 1955.