EVANS, ARMEN G. (20 July 1895 - 12 September 1975) was an AFRICAN AMERICAN pediatrician and medical researcher and life-long Clevelander.
Evans was born in Cleveland to a relatively comfortable family. His mother, a North Carolinian, had moved to the city’s CENTRAL neighborhood with her husband, a railway porter, before he was born. Evans’ biological father died when he was young, however, so the boy was mostly raised by his step-father, a drug manufacturer. He went to Bolton Elementary and graduated from the racially integrated CENTRAL HIGHSCHOOL in 1913. That year, he enrolled in WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY, intending to pursue a medical career.
Evans was an active student who helped found the PI CHAPTER of Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically Black fraternity that would soon count PERRY B. JACKSON, RUSSEL H. DAVIS, and others among its ranks; but though his first three years at Western Reserve University were without incident, his application to its Medical School was troubled by “the matter of color”. As he put it, the school administrators were worried “it would be next to impossible for me to finish at WRU, because of the prejudice of the white patients I would have to examine... in the last two years.” Even though it was recommended he transfer to ‘colored’ (historically Black) institutions like Howard or Meharry, Evans stayed put, and the school’s fears turned out to be unfounded. Evans joined the Student’s Army Training Corps during WW1, and successfully graduated in 1920. Looking to develop his career, however, he faced another blockage: his application to intern at CLEVELAND METROPOLITAN GENERAL HOSPITAL was rejected, and the institution would not accept an African American applicant until 1930.
Rejected by Cleveland City Hospital, Evans went to the segregated Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., which operated in partnership with Howard University. Here, under the tutelage of African American Frank Cook, he decided to become a pediatrician. Evans came back to Cleveland in 1921, established an office, and married Louise E. Canneville. He worked at the Babies Dispensary and Hospital, now the RAINBOW BABIES AND CHILDREN HOSPITAL until 1945.
Evans, his wife, and his two children (Margaret and Barbara) moved to CLEVELAND HEIGHTS in 1931; his was one of a small number of African American families in Cleveland’s newly forming upper-middle-class suburbs. Such moves would become increasingly controversial as the GREAT MIGRATION of African Americans heightened White fears, Black class conflict, racial bigotry, and color tension. Though other African Americans moved into the heights during the 1930s, the Evanses were the only family still present by the outbreak of WW2.
Evans was a prolific researcher, and from 1940 was heavily involved in the African American focused Journal of the National Medical Association. His research mostly centered children’s health. After leaving the Rainbow Babies and Children Hospital in 1945, he continued to work as a pediatrician until 1974. He died on September 12, 1975.