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Evans, Montgomery | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Evans, Montgomery

Historical Note: Montgomery Evans II was born on March 12, 1901 in Norristown, Pennsylvania to a wealthy lawyer and banker. Evans was an aspiring writer and arisocrat formed many friendships with literary figures of the 1920s. He was friends with Hunter Stagg, an editor of the Southern literary magazine, The Reviewer. It was through him that Evans was able to network and associate with literary figures such as Augustus John, Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Walter de la Mare, and Aleister Crowley. Evans and Stagg went on a European tour in 1924 during which he spent time with Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Sylvia Beach. For several years after, Evans and Stagg faithfully corresponded. Stagg's letters are replete with references to James Branch Cabell, his former editor on The Reviewer, whom he greatly admired, and to lesser literary figures such as Ronald Firbank, Joseph Hergesheimer, Ellen Glasgow, Elinor Wylie, and the artist Alistair.  Occasionally, there are episodes mentioning Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes (entertained by Stagg in Richmond), Joseph Schildekraute, and N.C. Wyeth. Evans married his second wife, Senada "Penny" Coats on December 6, 1947 and their son, Montgomery Evans III, was born on June 6, 1950. Senada "Penny" Coats Evans married Montgomery Evans II on December 6, 1947 and their son, Montgomery Evans III, was born on June 6, 1950. Penny Coats was 'known locally as the 'Cinderella' girl because of her rise from a hatcheck girl and nightclub dancer to a wealthy socialite."  On January 26, 1953, Penny Coats Evans was murdered in their Connecticut home by William Davis, a handyman, who later confessed to the crime. [She was 28 years old.] For the next fifteen months, Evans worked to arrange for the care of his son, who was eventually raised by his maternal grandparents, the George Coats family of Oklahoma City. Also at this time, Evans sold most of his valuable collection of books and manuscripts and made arrangement for the publication of his memoir, "Around the World with a Thirst." All this came abruptly to an end on April 24, 1954, when Evans was found dead in his New Orleans hotel lapartment. The autopsy reported a fractured skull, contusions and lacerations of the brain, and cirrhosis of the liver. His death was listed as accidental due to a fall, according to the news reports. Evans apparently had been in New Orleans frequently during the final year of his life in order to be able to visit his son in Oklahoma. His continuing problem with alcoholism, however, as well as financial difficulties clouded his final years.
Sources: Arthur Machen, Sue Strong Hassler, and Donald M. Hassler. Arthur Machen & Montgomery Evans: Letters of a Literary Friendship, 1923-1947. Kent State University Press: 1994, 189.

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