The "Doctor" Is In

School board candidate Richard Evans has a checkered past, a mail-order degree, and a confrontational manner. But many city leaders think he's the best man for the job.

"I take it that I went through the proper channels," Tyler says. "Had they told me that they had a candidate, I would not have sought this office. But I'm going forward, even more so now."

"I'm not crying," says first-time candidate Lynch, who also claims that the meeting was set up. "But I'm learning every day. I have learned that politics is a wolf...Everybody lies for politics."

Although Nash couldn't be reached for comment, Pastor M. E. Sargent, of the True Love Missionary Baptist Church, says he doesn't think his fellow ministers intentionally rigged the forum to benefit Evans. "I am familiar with Mr. Nash, and I don't see that happening."

He does confirm, however, that the other ministers wanted him to support Evans. "I was asked about my feelings for Mr. Evans. I let the committee know that my support is for Ms. Tyler. My head is on my shoulders."

The NAACP's Alcorn, who attended the forum, says he also doubts that the ministers' forum was intentionally staged on Evans' behalf. During the meeting, however, Evans was asked about his educational background, Alcorn says.

"He acknowledged that he did not have any educational degree; that he had some kind of honorary degree from a facility that is no longer in existence," says Alcorn, who adds that the subject of Evans' high school diploma didn't come up. "I guess it was assumed that he had it."

DISD officials confirm that Evans attended the ninth and 11th grades at Roosevelt High School, but they could find no record that he graduated from that school or any other in DISD. It's possible that the records were lost, says the official, who then adds, "If a person graduated from here, we should have a record of it."

Evans refused to provide any information to the Observer about his educational background, and his campaign literature carefully omits mention of it. It's a subject that Evans has been evading since 1993, when he was profiled in a lengthy, front-page article in The Dallas Morning News.

At the time, Evans told the newspaper that he had received a business administration degree from Penn State University in 1983. The News checked with school officials, who could find no record that Evans had ever attended the institution, much less graduated from it.

If Evans is, in fact, a high school drop-out, certainly the irony found in a July 17, 1998, fund-raising letter must have escaped the four Evans supporters who signed it--including Bank One's Steinhart and former Dallas Cowboy Pettis Norman. "We believe the choice is clear, and invite you to unite with us in endorsing Richard C. Evans for the Dallas School Board. Richard is a native Dallas resident and a product of its public schools."

During the ministers' forum, Alcorn says, he specifically told Evans that he did not yet have his permission to use his or the Dallas NAACP's name in his campaign material. It was a request that Evans ignored.

"I told him at that time I was still evaluating the people in the race," says Alcorn, who first met Evans during the tumultuous debate over the Townview magnet school.

Alcorn was impressed with Evans during the Townview debate, but says Evans has been in the "background" ever since. Although he doesn't know much about Evans personally, Alcorn says the debate over Evans' educational background is relevant.

"It is important that he be truthful and forthright in whatever credentials he has," Alcorn says. "We have to know who it is we're trying to support and what credentials they have. We need to have people who understand educational issues and who are honest."

Small wonder Alcorn has been reluctant to endorse Richard Evans.

In June, Evans helped organize a symposium titled "Color, Culture, Consensus: Overcoming the Racial Divide in the Dallas Public Schools," which was sponsored by the Greater Dallas Community Relations Commission and Channel 13 (KERA-TV). Its organizers invited people to attend the symposium via a letter dated June 2, 1998. Evans' signature appears on the letter above his name, which reads: "Dr. Richard Evans."

But that's not the only time Evans has suggested that he holds a Ph.D. In fact, Evans has been calling himself a doctor for years.

Back in 1993, Evans told the News that he received an honorary doctorate in religion from Rialto Community Bible College in California. The paper reported that the school had a post office box but no campus, and that it was not an accredited college.

"The first day I met him, he introduced himself as Dr. Richard Evans," recalls one DISD official who wishes to remain anonymous. "He said, 'You can call me Dr. Evans.' I thought, Who is this guy? Later on that night, he called [then-school board president] Sandy Kress the 'King of the Jews' and got thrown out of the [board] meeting."

The inflammatory incident occurred in December 1995, when Evans led a group of minority parents who were upset by an effort to move the Talented And Gifted High School out of the Townview magnet school.

According to a story in the News, Evans was ejected from a school board meeting after he said the dispute over the TAG program arose because a "Jewish administrator refuses to subordinate herself to an African-American administrator."

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