The sport of swimming mourns the loss one of it’s most inspirational figures this week with the passing of Dr. Grover Evans.
Evans’ athletic career began after a 1978 car accident rendered him a quadriplegic, allowing him to discover aquatics through rehabilitation. He quickly progressed from his first local intramural competition in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1989 to becoming the first African-American named to the US Paralympic Swimming Team in 1992. Evans also earned spots on Team USA for the 2004 Games in Athens and 2008 in Beijing where he was the oldest member of the team. His career spanned 19 years in the S1 classification, and saw him set five World Records, one Paralympic Record, sixty-one American Records and eight Pan-Am Records. In 1997 he was inducted into the Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame. Upon retirement, Evans also coached the varsity swim team at the Parkview Magnet School in Little Rock.
Dr. Evans life beyond the pool is perhaps even more inspirational.
In 1984 Evans became the first African-American to be elected to the Jonesboro City Council where he served for six terms, also serving as Vice-Mayor from December 1984 to July 1996. Evans was appointed the Director of Disability Determination for the Social Security Administration for the state of Arkansas by Governor Mike Huckabee, and has been recognized nationally for his contributions in helping Congress pass the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 1993 Brady Bill that mandated background checks and a waiting period for the purchase of firearms.
Arkansas LSC General Chair, Shawn Drake, gave this quote to SwimSwam:
“Grover Evans was an inspiration to all who knew him. He always had a smile on his face, loved swimming and had a passion for politics. I first met Grover at the Arkansas State University pool in the early 90’s, while he worked with his coach, Dr. Cindy Albright. Dr. Albright and Grover were best of friends and he always gave her credit for his accomplishments. I would often see him at swim meets and he was so excited to see his kids swim. His passion for swimming was infectious.
When Grover wasn’t at the pool, he advocated for individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). He volunteered with the Spinal Cord Commission and many other organizations. He served on advisory boards and consultants for rehabilitative services. He often came to the A-State Physical Therapy school to work with our students. He provided our students hands-on learning opportunities to work with individuals with SCI.
I am a better person for knowing Grover. I think about all that he has accomplished- in and out of the pool- and I am humbled. For someone that had so many devastating things happen to him, he always remained positive and found a way to give back. I will miss seeing his smiling face.”
Evans passed away on December 3rd, 2017 in Little Rock.