Tallahassee and Leon County officials held a ceremony to formally name the Dr. Charles L. Evans Pond in honor of the late civil rights activist and Florida A&M University professor.
The event was held on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and attracted neighborhood residents as well as FAMU administrators familiar with Evans’ work and contributions. Evans’ widow, Connie Evans, and her family also participated in the ceremony. Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor addressed the outdoor gathering near the pond in Myers Park at 816 Circle Drive. The City Commission approved the name change in 2020.
Evans was a longtime civil rights leader, president of the Tallahassee NAACP, and faculty member and administrator at FAMU.
“Dr. Evans deserves this recognition for his 31 years of distinguished leadership and service as associate dean, professor of marketing, and director of Graduate Programs for the FAMU School of Business and Industry and oversight of the Small Business Development Center at FAMU,” FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., said. “His life and legacy reflect everything Florida A&M University represents, “Excellence with Caring,” and when I think of him, I think of “Excellence without Excuse.”
The pond in Myers Park was named for the segregationist Florida Supreme Court Justice Roy Harrison Chapman upon his sudden death in 1952. A former resident of Myers Park, Chapman authored the Florida Supreme Court opinion on May 16, 1950, condemning the Groveland Four and upholding their wrongful conviction. The Groveland Four were African American men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County, Florida, 70 years ago. Thurgood Marshall, who went on to serve as the nation’s Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, argued the case before the United States Supreme Court, successfully reversing the Florida Courts opinion and granting a retrial in 1951.
In 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis and members of the Florida Cabinet voted unanimously to issue a full pardon to the Groveland Four.
“We are happy that the Governor and Cabinet took this extraordinary step restoring the honor of these men and the Tallahassee City Commission for naming this pond for someone whose good works affected all residents of this fine city,” Robinson said.
Evans was one of the first African Americans to settle in the Myers Park neighborhood, which has links to Tallahassee’s past as a plantation society, according to FAMU Distinguished Professor Larry Rivers, Ph.D.
The Myers Park area, Country Club Estates and the Woodlands Drive Subdivision grew out of the Edward Houstoun Plantation in Leon County, Rivers said.
“Edward Houstoun was one of the largest slaveholders in antebellum Leon County,” River said.
The pond itself is linked to African American history.
“What makes this particular pond so historically significant is that enslaved Blacks owned by Edward Houstoun used this very pond to wash their clothes, take baths, and other activities,” Rivers said. “This pond has historical significance going as far back as the territorial period of Florida, and the renaming of this pond for a Black civil rights advocate has historical significance.”