BOISE (AP) — Former Gov. John Victor Evans Sr., one of Idaho’s last Mormon Democrats to achieve statewide political success, has died. He was 89.
Summers Funeral Home confirmed Evans died Tuesday morning at his Boise home.
Evans was the grandson of the founder of the Idaho-based D.L. Evans Bank. He was just 27 when he was elected to the Idaho Senate in 1952, a move that followed in the footsteps of his banker grandfather.
Evans was re-elected in 1954 and again two years later. After that, he served as mayor of Malad City before returning to the Idaho Senate in 1968, where he was minority leader for several years. He then was elected Idaho lieutenant governor.
In 1977, Evans was suddenly elevated to the chief executive job when then-Gov. Cecil D. Andrus was named U.S. Interior secretary under President Jimmy Carter.
A year later, Evans became the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be elected Idaho governor, a post which he won in 1978 and then again in 1982.
“John was a good friend, a loyal and talented lieutenant governor to me, a fine and dedicated public official at both the local and the state level and, above all, a genuinely fine man,” Andrus said in a statement. “He’ll be remembered as a strong and capable governor who fought hard to maintain a strong economy and first class educational opportunities for Idahoans.”
Though Mormons tend to dominate the Republican Party in southeastern Idaho, Evans’ election came as a group of Mormon Democrats, including former U.S. Rep. Richard Stallings and former Idaho Attorney General Larry Echohawk, took seats in statewide or national office.
Evans’ tenure as governor came amid Idaho’s transition from a largely natural resource-dominated economy to one that included a mix of other products including semiconductors.
“Having had the good fortune to serve under Governor Evans, I got to know him as a sincere professional who understood the cost of success and took seriously his responsibilities as Idaho’s chief executive,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a former lieutenant governor, said in a statement. “He always had the best of intentions and was earnest in his love of Idaho.”