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Jesse Evans, former South Side alderman convicted in Operation Silver Shovel, dead at 83

Evans was convicted in 1997 of accepting $7,300 in bribes to send a city street sweeper to clean a private construction site and extorting $10,000 from the operator of a rock crusher in the ward.

Former 21st Ward Ald. Jesse Evans (seated behind microphones) in 1997.
Sun-Times file

Jesse Evans, a former South Side alderman convicted in Operation Silver Shovel, died last week. He was 83.

His passing was announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the beginning of Tuesday’s City Council meeting. According to a statement from his family, Evans died at Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park on Nov. 17.

Evans suffered a stroke in 2008 and his health was in decline since, according to his family.

Karriem Muhammad, Evans’ son, says he remembers his father as a “honorable man” who was accessible to everyone.

“He took me everywhere he went,” said Muhammad. “As a little boy, we would work with my father to set up block club parties and pass out fliers, and shortly after that the alderman at the time [Wilson Frost] saw his work as a block club president and asked him to become the precinct captain of the 21st Ward. ... He really focused hard on serving the 21st Ward to the point when there was a flood in Princeton Park and people’s electricity went out, they lost a lot of their food. My father went into his own pocket and spent over $30,000 on helping people to replace their food, refrigerators and their furniture.”

Born in Arkansas in 1937, Evans’ family moved to Chicago while he was at “an early age.” In 1959, he married his high school sweetheart, Betty J. Cobbs. The two remained married for 61 years.

After he served as a block club president for two different blocks — the 9500 and 9600 blocks of South Throop — Evans managed two precincts in the 21st Ward. In 1987, he unseated two-term incumbent Ald. Niles Sherman, beating him by just 14 votes.

Ten years later, Evans was convicted of accepting $7,300 in bribes to send a city street sweeper to clean a private construction site and extorting $10,000 from the operator of a rock crusher in the ward.

Evans was eventually sentenced to 3 12 years in prison. In 2003, he tried to reclaim his old City Council seat, but he was prohibited from running for office because he was still under court supervision related to his conviction.

Evans is survived by his wife, two sons, granddaughter and several great-grandchildren, according to his family.

A public viewing will be held at Leak & Sons Funeral Home, 7838 S. Cottage Grove, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Evans’ wake is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, with the funeral service beginning an hour later.