Dale Evans

Dale Evans

Dale Evans was born Lucille Wood Smith on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas. She had a tumultuous early life. Her name was changed to Frances Octavia Smith while she was still an infant and spent a lot of time living with her uncle. At age 14, she eloped with and married Thomas F. Fox, with whom she had one son, Thomas F. Fox, Jr., when she was 15.

A year later, abandoned by her husband, she found herself in Memphis, Tennessee, a single parent, pursuing a career in music. She landed a job with local radio stations (WMC and WREC), singing and playing piano. Divorced in 1929, she took the name Dale Evans in the early 1930’s to promote her singing career.

After beginning her career singing at the radio station where she was employed as a secretary, Evans had a productive career as a jazz, swing, and big band singer that led to a screen test and contract with 20th Century Fox studios. During her time at 20th Century Fox, the studio promoted her as the unmarried supporter of her teenage “brother” Tommy (actually her son Tom Fox, Jr.). This deception continued through her divorce from Butts in 1946 and her development as a cowgirl co-star to Roy Rogers at Republic Studios.

Evans married Roy Rogers on New Year’s Eve 1947 at the Flying L Ranch where they had earlier filmed the movie Home in Oklahoma. The marriage was Rogers’ third and Evans’ fourth but was successful; the two were a team on- and off-screen from 1946 until Rogers’ death in 1998.

Shortly after the wedding, Evans ended the deception regarding her son, Tommy. Roy had an adopted child, Cheryl, and two biological children, Linda and Roy (Dusty) Jr., from his second marriage. Together they had one child, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down syndrome. Evans and Rogers adopted four other children: Mimi, Dodie, Sandy, and Debbie.

Evans was very influential in changing public perceptions of children with developmental disabilities and served as a role model for many parents after she wrote Angel Unaware. Evans went on to write a number of religious and inspirational books. Roy and Dale appeared many times with Billy Graham in Crusades all over the country, singing gospel songs and giving their testimony.

From 1951-57, Evans and Rogers starred in the highly successful television series The Roy Rogers Show. In late 1962, the couple co-hosted a comedy-western-variety program, The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, which was cancelled after three months.

In the 1970s, Evans recorded several solo albums of religious music. During the 1980s, the couple introduced their films weekly on the former The Nashville Network. In the 1990s, Evans hosted her own religious television program.

Evans died of congestive heart failure on February 7, 2001 in Apple Valley, California.

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