Chemist and chemistry professor Billy Joe Evans was born on August 18, 1942 in Macon, Georgia. Evans grew up amidst the racism and segregation policies of the south during the 1950s. Evans’ father, Will Evans, worked part-time as a coordinator for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and went to Washington, D.C. to confer and strategize with founder and President A. Philip Randolph about how labor issues facing African American in Macon. In 1959, he graduated from Ballard High School, the largest high school in Macon, Georgia. Following graduation, Evans entered Morehouse College and he received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1963. Evans went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Chicago. The State of Georgia paid the tuition difference between the University of Georgia and the University of Chicago, and in 1968 Evans earned his Ph.D. degree in chemistry. His Ph.D. thesis was entitled: “Order-disorder phenomena and hyperfine interactions in Spinel ferrites.”.
Evans accepted a position on the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1970 after performing some post-doctoral work at the University of Manitoba and teaching at Howard University. He has held research positions at the University of Marburg, the Naval Research Institute, and the Ford Motor Company. Evans initially started his work at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor of geology and mineralogy, but he joined the chemistry department as an associate professor in 1974. Evans has continued to pursue his research in solid state chemistry. His primary interests include the synthesis and characterization of crystal/chemical structures properties that directly affect the quality of human environments. His contributions to the firld were recognized by the University of Michigan who promoted him to full professor in 1986. Evans is the principal or co-author of more than 90 scientific publications. Evans is the principal or co-author of more than 90 scientific publications. He has been invited to give lectures at the National Conferences on Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, the International Conference on Magnetism, Gordon Conferences and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Advanced Study Institute. Evans was named professor emeritus of the University of Michigan in 2007.
Evans has been the recipient of many honors and prizes for his dedication to the improvement of the quality and accessibility of higher education for all students and for his work in the sciences. In 1991, he was honored with the Statewide Distinguished Faculty Award. He received the 1997 American Chemical Society Camille and Henry Dreyfus Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students in Careers in the Chemical Sciences. Evans’ professional awards include the 1995 Manufacturing Chemists Association Catalysts Award, the 1997 American Chemical Society Camille and Henry Dreyfus Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students in Careers in the Chemical Sciences. The following year Evans was named the winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering by the National Science Foundation.
Billy Joe Evans was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on 10/22/2012.