Elected officials in Madison County and Southwestern Illinois are mourning the passing of Evelyn Bowles, longtime Madison County clerk and Illinois state senator. She died Friday at age 94.
The following are statements compiled by the office of Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan:
“Throughout her career as a public servant, Evelyn Bowles put politics aside and did what was best for the people she served. We mourn the passing of a great public servant, of a friend and of a mentor. She will be missed.”
Alan J. Dunstan
Madison County Board
“Sad news. A pioneer and a force. She didn’t put herself above others. Evelyn provided personal and competent service with humility and respect for those she served. A great loss.”
3rd Judicial Circuit
“Truly a renaissance woman! She had it all, political dynamo, charm and grace, golfer and performer! I will never forget her renditions of ‘Democrats, Democrats’ sung to the melody of Ja Da! They broke the mold when they made her!”
3rd Judicial Circuit
“Evelyn was a great lady. She exemplified a devotion to honest and competent public service. God rest her soul.”
Illinois State Senator
“I remember when I first met with Evelyn to seek her advice when I was contemplating running for coroner in 2000. She was so straightforward with her counsel, ‘don’t ever forget why you are in public service for as soon as you do, your supporters will forget why they voted for you. Always remain being the person they voted for. In politics it can be hard to stay humble and avoid becoming cynical; don’t fall into that ego trap and you will do well for yourself and your constituents.’”
“So very sad. She was a great lady with class!”
Illinois State Senator
“She always took time to talk and, more importantly, to listen.”
“It’s a sad day in Madison County with the news of the passing of Senator Evelyn Bowles. Her words, 'When you fall down, and you will fall down, what matters most is how you handle yourself in the process’ and ‘The County Clerk serves all citizens. We don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, we treat everyone the same. Politics stops at the door,’ a position which remains the mantra in the County Clerk’s office.”
Debbie Ming Mendoza
“Very sad. Evelyn was a true public servant and will be greatly missed.”
Biography (provided by Weber & Rodney Funeral Home)
For over 46 years, Senator Evelyn Bowles exemplified her leadership and commitment to the citizens of Madison County. In a time when there were few women in the political arena, Evelyn Bowles was forging a pathway for young women to follow. When many women shied away from the challenge of leadership, Senator Bowles was proving she was a force to be reckoned with and the fact that she was a woman had no bearing on her ability to get the job done.
Born in Worden and raised in Livingston, Bowles represented the 56th Senate District in the Illinois State Senate since May 1994. Bowles was appointed to fill a vacancy following the death of Sen. Sam Vadalabene. She was then elected to the Senate in November,1994 and re-elected in 1998 to a four-year term. She retired from the Senate in late 2002.
Before her appointment to the State Senate, Bowles was elected to five consecutive terms as the Madison County Clerk. Prior to her election as County Clerk, Bowles worked in the Clerk's office as the Chief Deputy from 1951-1974. Senator Bowles also worked as a schoolteacher at Edwardsville C.U. #7 and at the Elementary School in Livingston.
To further her education, Senator Bowles attended Illinois State University, Greenville College, Southern Illinois University, Southwest Photo Arts Institute, Dallas, Texas, and Lewis and Clark Community College. A veteran of the armed services, Senator Bowles served in the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve ( SPARS) in the Intelligence Division from 1943-1945.
For many years, Senator Bowles was extremely active in the Madison County area. She was a Charter Member, as well as the Corresponding Secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Council in Springfield, and served as the first chairman of St. Mary's Parish Council. She was a former Board Member of Hospice of Madison County; and she served as the Christmas Seal Chairman in 1990 and 1991.
Senator Bowles also served as the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Center at SIUE from 1984-1986; as the Memorial Chairman of the Edwardsville Unit of the American Cancer Society; as Co-chair of the March of Dimes Walk-A-Thon for the Edwardsville Region; and she was a member of the American Legion Post 199 and The Auxiliary. She also donated her time to many worthy local causes. On September 14, 2002 she spent the day doing fundraising activities for the Metro-East Humane Society.
Senator Bowles long supported Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Personally, she contributed to or participated in fundraising events for the women's golf team and both the men and women's basketball teams. She was instrumental in obtaining a $20,000 grant from SBC Ameritech donated to the SIUE Foundation for the benefit of the "Sou 'wester" literary magazine. She regularly participated in seminars and educational activities conducted at SIUE -events such as "Political Awareness Week, "for example.
For her work and dedication to the residents of the Madison County area, Senator Bowles was recognized by numerous groups and associations. In 1979, she received the Alice Paul Award from the Alton-Edwardsville Chapter of NOW. In 1984, she received the Girl Scouts Service Award. Bowles was recognized among the Outstanding Working Women of Illinois, presented by Illinois Federation of Business and Professional Women, in 1986. In 1987, she received the Social Security Administration Service Award.
In 1987, the Senator was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary Clubs International. A recipient of the Madison County Bar Association's 1989 Liberty Bell Award, Bowles went on to receive the 1990 Athena Award from the Edwardsville and Glen Carbon Chamber of Commerce. In 1993, the Suburban Joumals/KMOX Radio gave Senator Bowles their Women of Achievement Award for individuals in public service. Bowles was named a YWCA Woman of Distinction in 1995 by the Alton YWCA. In 1996, she received a Silver Good Citizen Medal from National Society of the Sons of American Revolution. In 2000, Bowles was the recipient of 4 more awards. She received the Illinois Archaeology Public Service Award for her diligent work on the Sugar Loaf property in Cahokia. The Watershed Nature Center planted a maple tree to honor the Senator for her efforts to obtain a $50,000 Illinois First Grant for Edwardsville. The Edwardsville Business and Professional Women's group donated a park bench at the city park in honor of Bowles' fifty years as a member of the organization. The Madison County Historical Museum Archive Library named a meeting room in honor of Senator Bowles.
Senator Bowles passed legislation increasing penalties for those who desecrate grave markers in Illinois cemeteries. The legislation also ensures that cemetery funds are used for their intended purpose -- the perpetual care of grave sites. Senator Bowles actively worked with Comptroller Dan Hynes in the Metro East area to promote the use of the state's Cemetery Care Hotline (1-877-203-3401) which consumers call to report problems they might encounter with a cemetery owner.
With the spread of methamphetamine reaching ·dangerous levels in Illinois, Senator Bowles introduced legislation creating new penalties for individuals convicted of illegally possessing the chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine. The manufacture of "meth" or "crank" has increased significantly in the Metro-East area in recent years, because it can be produced both quickly and easily from commonly used products - such as anhydrous ammonia. This bill was passed into law in 2000.
In 1997, Senator Bowles introduced and passed the first law in the nation regulating the reprocessing of certain single-use surgical devices. The FDA incorporated several of the same items in federal legislation. Senator Bowles also sponsored important health-related bills, several of which passed the General Assembly. Among those bills are: a $2 fee collected by the circuit clerk for minor traffic violations will generate between $2.5 millions and $4.7 million per year for deposit into the Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Research Fund. A change in the Illinois Insurance Code provides that insurance for private passenger automobiles must include coverage for the replacement of child safety seats if those seats were in use at the time of an accident.
In 2002, Senator Bowles was chief co-sponsor of legislation further regulating the humane care of animals. Among other issues, this bill specifically stated that any drug used for euthanasia of an animal be administered under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. Bowles was also successful in 2002 in passing SB 1695 to expand the Tri-City Regional Port District Act.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee, Senator Bowles was committed to the success of Illinois' agriculture community. In an effort to find a "third crop" to insert into traditional com and soybean rotation, she sponsored a resolution directing the University of Illinois to study the introduction of industrial hemp in Illinois. Industrial hemp - which does not have the same chemical makeup or physical effects as marijuana - was an important crop in Illinois during much of the state's history, because of its versatility. This important piece of legislation was twice passed by the legislature only to be vetoed each time by Governor Ryan.
She also sponsored and passed legislation which enabled the City of Madison to acquire the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge for purposes of leasing it to Trailnet for public purposes. Trailnet then engaged in a multi-million dollar restoration project to convert the bridge, a part of historic Route 66, into one of the world's longest pedestrian/ bicycle bridges and an invaluable recreational resource for the area.
In her spare time, Senator Bowles hosted a weekly Radio Program on WR YT titled "Around the County with Evelyn Bowles." She wrote a history of the Madison County Jail from 1812 - 1906, which was presented to the County Historical Society and published by the Edwardsville Intelligencer.
As a member of the State Senate, Bowles served as the Democratic Spokesperson of the Licensed Activities Committee. She was also a member of the Agriculture and Conservation Committee and the Executive Committee.