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Friends Remember ex-Democratic Party Chairman

posted Nov 19, 2017, 1:50 PM by Oconee Democratic Party   [ updated Nov 19, 2017, 1:51 PM ]
(Pictured): Former Oconee County Democratic Party chair Mike Evatt, second from left, poses for a photo with current OCDP chair Paulette Keffas-Chassin, left, S.C. Democratic Party chair Trav Robertson and former OCDP chair Maxie Duke. Keffas-Chassin called Evatt’s death this week “a great loss.” Special to The Journal

Posted on November 16, 2017

By Greg Oliver

The Journal

SENECA — Former Oconee County Democratic Party chairman Mike Evatt died Wednesday, and those who knew and loved him say they will always remember the impact he made — not only politically but, more importantly, on their lives.

“It’s a great loss — he was a great mentor to me and a friend,” current Oconee County Democratic Party chair Paulette Keffas-Chassin said.

Evatt was a two-term chairman of the party, and Keffas-Chassin said they didn’t exactly hit it off when they were first introduced.

“Mike re-engaged with the Oconee County Democratic Party two years ago when I was interim chair,” she said. “He was a bit cool to me at first — a newcomer to the area from the north. But we soon became fast friends, and he even nominated me to be chair at our county convention in 2016. It was a moment I will never forget.”

Keffas-Chassin said Evatt “made me laugh, think and wonder.”

“Mike recently said, ‘Being chair is a thankless job, so I just want to thank you, Madam Chair, for all your hard work,’” Keffas-Chassin said. “He was a brilliant, passionate, caring man who was relentless in his desire to improve the lives of residents in Oconee — in education, health care and in their standard of living. Mike Evatt never gave up trying to fight for people in need in Oconee County.”

Walhalla resident Maxie Duke, who also served as chair of the Oconee County Democratic Party in the late 1980s, said she depended a lot on Evatt.

“He could remember statistics about elections you wouldn’t believe and stories about people that were amazing to me,” Duke said.

But, more importantly, Duke said, Evatt was a good friend who loved people.

“He took care of people,” Duke said. “You wouldn’t believe how he took care of people. Anybody he could help, he would. He always had a positive attitude, always smiling and joking about something.”

South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson called Evatt “the epitome of what a Democrat should be.”

“Mike Evatt taught me the virtue of chasing a greased pig in the mountains of Oconee County and that the best apple cider in the entire world was from Mountain Rest,” Robertson said in a prepared statement. “You wanted Mike on your team in a fight.”

Although Evatt supported Robertson’s opponent in last April’s race for state party chair, Robertson said Evatt called after he won the race.

“He was the first person to call and offer his support to make my term as chair successful,” Robertson said. “I will miss him terribly. Our thoughts are with him and his family during this time.”

Sam Martin, of Newberry, who was a close friend for the past 30 years, said Evatt was a brilliant strategist. Martin recalled a petition seeking to make video poker legal in the state again in order to abolish property taxes.

“I told him I was having a hard time (collecting signatures) and he said I could get all the signatures I could get soon,” Martin said. “I asked how and he said for me to stand in front of the treasurer’s and auditor’s office, because they would be collecting taxes pretty soon. He could come up with things that seemed so obvious later.”

Martin also recalled how Evatt, running against incumbent S.C. Rep. Bill Sandifer in the 1998 election, was told he would get few, if any, votes running as a Democrat in Oconee County.

“Mike ended up getting nearly 45 percent of the votes, and it was because of his likeability,” Martin said. “He was the kindest, most gentle person I ever knew. He would give you the shirt off his back, and I don’t know anyone who didn’t love him.”

Nearly 10 years ago, just before Thanksgiving, Martin said Evatt saw a man on the side of the road who “was really bad off.” Evatt, his friend said, stopped and gave the man $50.

“He did stuff like that for people — you didn’t hear a lot about it, but he did,” Martin said.

But Martin said Evatt should also be remembered for the love he had for his wife, Kelly, who died several years ago, and his children — his son, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Michael Evatt of Missouri, and daughter, Molly Evatt Quinn of Westminster.

“No one raised two children who ever turned out better than his two children, and it’s because of what he put into their lives,” he said.

Keffas-Chassin said Evatt often spoke of his children, as well as his grandchildren, Maddy and Zachary Quinn and Jackson and Brody Evatt, and his parents, James “Dink” and Ruth McGee Evatt of Seneca.

“There is not now, and never will be, a replacement for Mike Evatt,” she said.

A funeral service for Evatt will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Walhalla. The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. today at Sandifer Funeral Home in Westminster. | (864) 973-6687