Benjamin C. Evans Jr.: INDIANA BEGINNINGS.

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Date: Spring 2020
Publisher: Indiana Historical Society Press
Document Type: Excerpt
Length: 3,948 words
Lexile Measure: 1260L

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A Central Intelligence Agency executive who operated at the top levels of the U.S. intelligence community during the darkest days of the Cold War, Hoosier Benjamin C. Evans Jr. served as a covert case officer in revolutionary Havana, Cuba, and managed The Asia Foundation, a sprawling CIA front organization. In 1968 Evans was promoted to the CIA headquarters' seventh floor, where the executive directorate team managed world-changing intelligence missions. A socially adept administrator, Evans was the CIA Executive Secretary for seven Directors of Central Intelligence under four presidential administrations. In this excerpt from his Evans biography, Gentleman in the Shadows, recently published by the Indiana Historical Society Press, author Douglas A. Wissing explores Evans's Hoosier roots.

"I am just plain American and proud of it," Benjamin C. Evans Jr. wrote in 1941 during his seventeenth year, telling of his "heterogeneous mixture" of Dutch, German, English, and Scottish forebears, who had included President Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war, a member of Captain William Kidd's pirate crew, and a Hoosier township trustee who butchered ten hogs a year, in part to feed the citizens who came to his monthly institutes. Evans concluded his family was like most others, "partly good and partly bad." Born on March 14, 1924, Evans grew up in prim, orderly Crawfordsville, Indiana, an agricultural entrepot for the bountiful farmland that surrounded it, with a population of about 10,000. Under a high prairie sky, tidy commercial buildings surrounded the courthouse square and stately Victorian homes and imposing churches lined its prosperous neighborhoods' leafy streets.

The town prided itself as the "Athens of the Prairie." Wabash College, a Presbyterian school, was an important institution. Founded in 1832 by Presbyterian home missionaries, the college was a bastion of conservative mid-nineteenth-century societal norms. A Wabash College history noted, "And through the pulpit and the church press they reiterated the argument for a college where soul and intellect could be trained. They were convinced that only such a measure would save the great Western Country from free-thinkers, atheists, Catholics, and Unitarians."

Crawfordsville's hometown hero was General Lew Wallace, decorated Civil War general, foreign diplomat, and author of the nineteenth-century's best-selling novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. During the panic of 1876-77, Wallace organized a local militia to help quell Indianapolis's "Bread or Blood" labor uprising. Wallace's study and home anchored the prosperous Elston Grove neighborhood, which was an enclave of Evans's extended family.

Near to the Wallace estate, Evans's family home was a large, comfortable brick American Foursquare with a broad shady limestone porch. Embellished with quarter-sawn oak and beveled glass, the finely appointed interior signified an established family with resources. Most of his family was active in the neighborhood's First United Methodist Church, which emphasized personal ethics, responsibility, and temperance. One relative's obituary read, "Home, business and church was the trinity of his life," a phrase that characterized the family.

Evans wrote, "I regret that the outstanding memory of my young childhood was sickness." His earliest days were fraught with serious...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A672361811