M. Stanton Evans was not just one of the leading lights of the conservative movement and of conservative journalism; he was a founder of the movement, a lodestar, a definer of who we are and what we believe. When he died last week at age 80, tributes came in from near and far, high and low.
I had heard tributes to Evans years ago from my father, who was there at the Sharon Conference where Young Americans for Freedom was founded, and where Evans was the primary (and almost exclusive) draftsman of the “Sharon Statement” that remains perhaps the single best, most concise explication of what the modern (last 50 years) conservative movement believes. More on the Sharon Statement at the end of this blog post, from my father. I was also grateful that Evans, in his first book, the 1961 Revolt on the Campus, mentioned my father by name (p. 178), along with his compatriots Richard Regan and John Eckland, for founding a conservative campus journal called The Liberator – which Evans described as “a magazine which, in form and in content, is a competent analogue to National Review.”
My own brief tributes to Evans, over the years, came at The American Spectator, one about how he helped make me a confirmed Reaganite at the ripe old age of 12 and another a paean to his magisterial book The Theme is Freedom.
But I didn’t know him the way many others did. Herewith, a compendium of all the excellent tributes I could find, to a man in whose debt are all conservatives, even those who had never before heard his name:
From Reagan historian and public relations maestro Craig Shirley. From journalist and author John Fund. From the writer David Franke, Evans’ first-ever student. From Evans’ longtime dear friend, the Heritage Foundation’s official chronicler of the conservative movement, Lee Edwards. From Heritage Foundation vice president Becky Norton Dunlop. From National Review’s Jay Nordlinger. From NR editor-at-large John O-Sullivan. From author and academic Steven Hayward. A surprisingly kind news obituary from The New York Times. From longtime National Review writer, in a piece printed at The American Spectator, Neal Freeman. And from a eulogy at his memorial service.
From Roger Pilon at CATO. From the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (with video). From writer Max Schulz (whose father, like mine, was at Sharon). From The Heartland Institute. From Justice Department whistleblower and frequent Fox News legal analyst J. Christian Adams. From The College Fix. And from the Washington Examiner’s always-superb Mark Tapscott.
And I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones.
Now, back to Sharon. It is widely acknowledged that the famous Sharon Statement came almost entirely from Stan Evans’ pen. What was astonishing, for those who were there, was that it was so good, right from the start. My father told me as much as he could remember about the Sharon Conference; one thing he said made a particular impression on me because I was a writer. He said that during the whole weekend, almost every topic that came up was subject to spirited debate. Everybody wanted a say on something. But when what became known as The Sharon Statement was presented to them, it was so perfect, straight from Evans’ pen, that my father remembered no debate at all on it. Even Thomas Jefferson had to endure his Declaration of Independence being edited in numerous ways by the Continental Congress – but not Stan Evans. Sure, one or two people, maybe Lee Edwards, might have suggested a word change or two behind the scenes, before the Statement was presented to the larger group assembled. But the larger group, said my dad, was awed at how good it was that they quickly approved it, almost assuredly in toto (if any amendments were made, my dad didn’t remember it) and moved on to debating more complicated issues, such as what name to give this new organization.
Only Stan Evans had both the writing ability and the philosophical grounding to get it so right, right from the start. And Right from the start. Because he was Right and right from beginning to end, for 60 years of work in the conservative vineyards, we all should tip our hats, or more properly tip back our cocktail glasses, in memory and honor of M. Stanton Evans.