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Greg Evers: A Life Well Lived

Greg Evers: A Life Well Lived

Photo credit: AP Photo/Steve Cannon

This feature appears in the December '17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

Greg Evers was a southern gentleman. By occupation he was a down-to-earth, God-fearing farmer.

This plain-spoken man with a southern drawl was equally at home in work clothes rolling around in the dirt trying to repair a broken tractor, or in a suit and polished cowboy boots, debating on the floor of the Florida House or the Senate trying to do the right thing for Florida citizens.

His roots ran deep in northwest Florida: He was born into farming, and it’s what he learned, what he knew and what he did.

He worked harder, gave more and took less than most people.

Sixteen years ago, he decided to run for the state legislature. Winning a hard-fought special election, he took a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

Evers wanted to help people. And helping people is why he decided to run for public office. He believed he could better represent the people of northwest Florida in Tallahassee because he was truly one of them and understood their needs. He wanted to be a champion for the people of northwest Florida.

Evers didn’t run for office to take the easy route and he wasn’t really concerned about being popular with his colleagues.Greg became known as an unwavering Second Amendment advocate, and a legislative champion for law-enforcement officers, first responders and veterans.

He was blessed with remarkable common sense, and if you asked him to take on a project, he was thorough. He would go anywhere and talk to anybody to get the facts. He was fearless in his pursuit of the truth and justice.

He made many, many sacrifices because he loved people. And it was his love for people and his dedication to public service that drove him.

Evers didn’t run for office to take the easy route and he wasn’t really concerned about being popular with his colleagues. He could not be cajoled or coerced into doing something he didn’t believe in. He was determined to do what he thought was right, and he was never afraid to take the road less traveled.

His farming mindset wouldn’t let him quit or slack off until the work was done. I asked him one time how many hours a day he worked. He replied, “Oh, from sometime before sun-up to sometime after ‘Zero-dark-30.’” And then he laughed. He said, “You work until the job is done or until you just fall down and can’t do any more.” I never doubted him for a minute.

After serving in the Florida House, he moved up to the Florida Senate. His last venture into politics was a run for Congress. And while Greg lost the election, I think the people of northwest Florida were the big winners because he stayed home. He came back to his roots—farming and agriculture—and to plan and strategize for another day.

The first conversation Evers and I ever had was most unexpected. It was 16 years ago, when he was running in the special election for the Florida House. He called my office the day before Election Day and said, “Miss Hammer, this is Greg Evers and I’m running for the House of Representatives over here in northwest Florida.” He then said, “You can call me Greg, can I call you by your first name?”

When I said, “Yes,” he said: “Miss Marion, I know you have endorsed my opponent in this primary run-off. And I know he has worked as a volunteer for the NRA over here in this area, and I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. So I wanted to tell you there are no hard feelings. But I’m going to win this election and when I get to Tallahassee, I’m going to be the strongest Second Amendment supporter you could ever ask for. And when I run for re-election, I hope you’ll be working just as hard for me.”

That was pure class. That conversation is one of the most amazing things to happen to me in my career in politics.

In time, I learned several things about Greg that came from that phone call.

One: To him, my first name was “Miss Marion.” He simply would not say my name without showing respect to me.

Two: If he said it, he meant it. When that election was over, it was over. He never mentioned it again, didn’t try to get even, didn’t hold a grudge, didn’t taunt me with it. He didn’t even joke about it. He meant what he said, “No hard feelings.”

Three: He was so strong on the Constitution and the Second Amendment, he was probably a little to the right of me. He didn’t just say it, he believed it and he lived it. It was truly a part of who he was.

Evers always tried to see your side. He earned your respect by the way he respected you. He never made an enemy when he could make a friend. He would rather talk to people than blindside them. He believed he should try to win people over to his side, and he’d try to do that. He even talked to people he knew would never agree with him, but he had to try. 

Many times I’d say, “Greg, you don’t have to do all that.” And he’d smile and say, “Yes, ma’am, I know, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Evers was a kind and generous man with more patience than anyone had a right to expect. And he was loyal to a fault. He stood by people who didn’t even deserve his friendship.

He worked hard and went the extra mile. He would do a favor for you without you even asking. And he wouldn’t come running to you to take credit for what he’d done. Later, when you found out and asked him about it, he’d just grin and say, “I thought you’d like that.”

He took great joy in doing random acts of kindness and enjoyed meeting people and making friends. To know Greg and to be his friend were gifts from God.

It might sound like a cliché, but it is absolutely true: If everybody treated people the way Greg treated people, our county and our communities would be much better places to live and raise our children.

He was the strongest man they knew, and they believed he could fix anything and any problem. They said his heart was bigger than the world.You simply can’t describe Evers without everything sounding like an overused cliché. But that’s who he really was and who we all should hope to be. His honesty and profoundly respectful way of treating people and doing things were partnered with integrity, class and a down-to-earth philosophy that people should always do the right thing.

Greg was my friend. The last words he said to me were, “Holler if you need me.” And he meant it. For many years, that’s how we ended phone calls. If I said it first, he’d say, “Yes, ma’am.” If he said it first, I’d say, “Yes, sir.”

Some folks might call that too formal for friends. But most of us know that friends respect each other. And you show that respect by how you treat friends and how you talk to them.

I wanted to be able to share with you the way some members of Greg’s family see him, so I asked his brother, Eric, and his children—Stephanie, Jennifer and Rob—if there was anything they would like for us to know about him.

These are some of the things they wanted you to know.

Growing up, Greg’s father always told him that he wasn’t better than anybody, but that he was just as good as everybody. He taught Greg to always treat those around him as equals. And his children believe that philosophy is what gave their daddy his confidence and his presence.

They say that while everyone might not have always agreed with him, they respected him. They told me people are driven by different things in life—for some it’s recognition, for some it’s wealth, but for their daddy, it was service. His life was centered on service to others.

They said he was happiest when he was doing something to make someone else’s life better.

And they said their father made people feel like they were the most important person in the room when he was talking to them. He was never fake. He was always genuine, and you always knew where he stood.

Eric thought it was important for you to know that Greg had a tender heart and couldn’t stand to see other people suffer.

His children agreed that Greg was kind and generous. He taught them that your word is your bond, and that you should always work hard. They said he set great examples for them.

They summed it up by saying their daddy loved his children and grandchildren more than words can say, and he made sure they knew it. He was the strongest man they knew, and they believed he could fix anything and any problem. They said his heart was bigger than the world. No parent could ever hope to be held in a better light by his children.

Greg’s parents have lost a son, their child. Parents never expect to lose a child. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Losing a child is one of the worst pains a parent will ever feel. Their son was loved by many and set an example for others to follow. They raised him to be a genuinely remarkable man.

Deep down inside, Greg’s children probably knew and expected that someday they would lose their father, but not this soon. It’s something they were not prepared for. The shock and grief is a lot to deal with. And while it doesn’t ease their pain right now, they should know that he left them an amazing legacy of strength, honesty and respect.

I hope they will try to look for the good in this tragic loss, that they’ll take comfort that he left this earth full of life, and that their memories—and our memories—are of him doing what he wanted and loved to do.

Greg and his wife, Lori, shared many good days and some very tough days. But they truly loved each other. Loving and being loved by another is a blessing. They both sacrificed much for each other and in the service of others. She should never forget his patience, his trust and his love.

When God reached down to take another good guy home, He picked one of the very best among us, and we are all diminished by this loss. A dear, dear friend has moved on. But his ready smile will remain in our memories.

Even in our loss, we must recognize that we are all better for having had Greg Evers in our lives and on this Earth. The legacy he leaves should be a challenge to us all—a challenge to be more like him, to be honest, to work with integrity, to help others, to show respect and to be a friend.

Greg was indeed special. He was one of a kind, and we will miss him.

God bless his family, and God bless you all.