Jack Evans is tall and thin, with the energy level of a man half his age. George Harris has a Mississippi accent and quiet demeanor that complements his partner of 53 years.
“You’re getting off track,” Harris says warmly, sitting outside the Library Bar.
“Yeah, getting off track,” Evans responds. “Uh, where were we? Which way were we going?”
Evans pauses, trying to remember where he left off, an understandable hiccup in relaying the narrative of their lives. Evans was fired from Neiman Marcus in Houston for being gay, and Harris was thrown out of the CIA in Northern Virginia. “I came to Dallas in ’56,” Harris says, “and it was locked down tight. There wasn’t any gay movement that I knew about.”
Five years later, in 1961, Evans and Harris met by coincidence at a bar and then again a few days later, at a mutual friend’s going-away party. As a couple, they became a force, working side by side in their real estate business for 38 years, founding what would become the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, and starting The Dallas Way, a project aimed at presenting the history of the GLBT community in Dallas. They were married (finally) in March.
“Of course, this was symbolic,” Evans says. “It’s not legal in the state of Texas yet.”
Over five decades, Evans and Harris, who are both in their 80s, have seen marked changes in Dallas’ gay community. They saw people get arrested in the ’60s at house parties. They saw people circle the block in the ’70s before entering Metropolitan Community Church for fear of getting arrested. They saw more than 100 friends die of complications from AIDS in the ’80s.
“That issue alone brought us together,” Harris says.
“It organized us,” Evans says.
So they started their projects—the chamber, the oral histories, the fundraising.
“Our real focus has been our legacy for the community, that our whole lives have been trying to improve, to encourage the young people to make a difference,” Harris says. “They think they can walk down Cedar Springs holding hands, and it’s just automatically come to that, but there was a lot of struggle to get there.”
“Well, our next project,” Evans says, “which we, uh—”
“I hope we don’t start another project,” Harris cuts in.
Perhaps they’ve done enough.