T. Cooper Evans
Thomas Cooper ("Cooper") Evans (May 26, 1924 – December 22, 2005) was a three-term Republican U.S. Representative from Iowa's 3rd congressional district. First elected to Congress in a close race amidst a Republican landslide, in a district that became less Republican through reapportionment, Evans defied expectations by winning re-election by increasingly large margins.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Evans graduated from Grundy Center High School, Grundy Center, Iowa in 1942. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving as infantryman from 1943 to 1946. After his discharge, he attended St. Andrews University in Scotland in 1948. He earned his B.S. from Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa in 1949, and earned his M.S. in 1955. He graduated from Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1956.
He also served as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers from 1949 to 1965.
Evans served as president of Evans Farms, Inc. from 1965 to 1980, and served on the Grundy County Board of Property Tax Review from 1968 to 1974. He served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979. He was a delegate to the Iowa State Republican conventions from 1966 to 1978.
In 1980, Republican two-term Congressman Charles Grassley gave up his seat in Iowa's 3rd congressional district to launch a successful run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent John C. Culver. Evans won a four-way race for the Republican nomination to succeed Grassley, winning 45 percent of the primary vote. In a general election in which Ronald Reagan and Grassley won landslide victories, Evans won a narrow victory in his historically Republican district, defeating Democrat Lynn Cutler by only four percentage points.
In Evans' first year in Congress, the Iowa Legislature was required to reapportion Iowa's congressional districts. The state's non-partisan Legislative Service Bureau produced two plans that were rejected by legislators, but its third plan removed six traditionally Republican counties from Evans' district while adding historically Democratic Johnson County, home of the University of Iowa. Pundits observed that the third plan, if adopted, "will probably make it much more difficult for Republicans to win in that district." An effort by Evans' supporters in the Legislature to amend the third plan to preserve its Republican character failed, and it took effect upon the governor's signature.
In the 1982 general election, Evans again faced Cutler, and was considered one of the most vulnerable freshman Republicans. However, despite redistricting and a minor national Democratic comeback, Evans handily defeated Cutler, winning this time by over 20,000 votes. Two years later, Evans won re-election by an even greater margin, receiving over 60 percent of the vote when defeating Democrat Joe Johnston.
In January 1986, Evans announced that he would not seek a fourth term, but would return to Iowa to farm. In all, he served from January 3, 1981 to January 3, 1987.
Evans died on December 22, 2005, aged 81, in Grundy Center, Iowa, and was interred in Rose Hill Cemetery there.
- Bob Case, "3rd District Marathon," Waterloo Courier, 1980-02-24 at p.5.
- "Cooper Evans Winner of 3rd District Seat," Oelwein Daily Register, 1980-06-04 at p.4.
- "Evans Squeaks by Cutler," Oelwein Daily Register, 1980-11-04 at p. 6.
- "Reapportionment goes to Governor," Oelwein Daily Register, 1980-08-13 at p.1.
- "Evans Tops Cutler Again," Oelwein Daily Register, 1982-11-03 at p. 13.
- "Evans to Step Down from Congress," Cedar Falls Citizen, 1986-01-25 at p. 1.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.