Bradenton civil rights, community activist dies at 97

Evangeline Avis Hall: 1915-2013

vmannix@bradenton.comAugust 2, 2013 

Hall

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Evangeline Hall didn't exactly feel welcome when she and her husband arrived in Bradenton in 1939.

The "Friendly City" it was not for African-Americans.

Some signs of the times:

• Separate water fountains and public rest rooms for blacks.

• Segregated restaurants.

• Few real job opportunities.

Slowly but surely, Ms. Hall emerged as a civic as well as civil rights leader who helped bring about gradual change to the town she would call home for the next 74 years.

"She was a woman who saw a need and acted upon it," her daughter, Jannine Austin, said.

"When she spoke you'd better listen," said former Mayor Bill Evers.

"She was an upstanding citizen who lived among us and was visible," said former City Councilman Clarence Love. "We miss that."

Ms. Hall died Tuesday. She was 97.

One of seven children, Ms. Hall went to segregated schools as a child growing up in DeLand and attended Bethune Cookman College, but her outlook was different when she encountered prejudice as an adult in Bradenton.

"She was a catalyst for change and wasn't bashful about speaking out," Evers said. "She had the African-American community and the city at heart."

Along with other activists, Ms. Hall helped form Bradenton's first Biracial Committee under Mayor A. Sterling Hall, a five-term mayor who took office in 1948 and honored her with a key to the city.

It was just one of numerous ways Ms. Hall would serve her community as a volunteer and board member with countless organizations.

To wit:

• Treasurer of the 13th Avenue Community Center.

• Treasurer of the League of Women Voters.

• First African-American president of the Democratic Party of Manatee

County.

• Member of the Downtown Development Authority.

• First African-American manager of Central Life Insurance, where she worked 47 years.

Ms. Hall was also the recipient of numerous honors throughout her years of community service.

Some of them:

• Inaugural NAACPManatee County chapter's Volunteer of the Year Award.

• "Woman of the Year" by Zeta Phi Beta sorority.

• Silver Medallion of National Honor from the National Council of Christians & Jews.

• One of the American Association of University Women's annual "Women of Achievement."

"She was an inspiration, a woman who was well regarded," Love said.

Yet of all her accomplishments, Ms. Hall was probably most proud of her 54 years as minister of music at Bethlehem Baptist Church and Koinonia Missionary Baptist Church, both in Sarasota.

"She was a woman who wore many hats," Austin said. "She was a very helpful woman to those in need."

There will be a viewing from 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 9 at Abundant Favor Mortuary, 916 13th St. W., Bradenton.

Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Aug. 10 in St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, 1006 First St., Bradenton.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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