Lane Evans passed away Wednesday night after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 63.
Evans, a Rock Island native, was first elected to represent Illinois’ 17th congressional district in 1982.
Western Illinois University Political Scientist Keith Boeckelman called Evans a populist Democrat who focused on helping the working class and poor. Boeckelman said Evan’s outstanding constituent service and emphasis on veterans services kept him in office.
“He came home every weekend,” Boeckelman said. “He worked the whole district. His base was the Quad Cities, of course, but Macomb, McDonough County used to be part of the 17th district and he came here a lot, particularly before his health started to fail.
“I think that really -- in a district that might not be favorable to his voting record -- kept him getting elected and re-elected several times.”
Boeckelman described Evans’ as having “staying power.” In all, he was re-elected to Congress 11 times. That was despite having tough Republican challengers through the years, including three tilts against Mark Baker in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Former Macomb Mayor Tom Carper worked closely with Evans over the years when the district served more of western Illinois than it does today. Carper said Evans was a friend of the district and Western Illinois University.
“He was just a good common Midwesterner, a smart guy,” Carper said. “Never got taken with his stature, with his position. He and others would say he ran for office to do something, not to become someone.
“He never lost that until the end. He always stayed the same, a hard worker. He knew he was representing the people and that someday he wouldn’t be there and that’s the way the system is set up and he never got too taken with himself."
Evans announced in the mid 1990s he had Parkinson’s disease. But he remained in office through 2006 when he retired.
Evans passed away in a nursing home in East Moline. President Obama on Thursday issued a statement about Evans:
"Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Congressman Lane Evans. Lane was a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and dedicated much of his public life to helping his fellow veterans, particularly those who fought in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange.
"Lane was one of my earliest supporters when I ran for the Senate, and I was proud to have him by my side when I when I was elected President. Above all, Lane was an American hero, a dear friend and a beloved public servant of the people of Illinois. Michelle and I extend our thoughts and prayers to Lane’s family and friends, and the people he represented in Congress who loved him so dearly."