As friends, family and well-wishers from across the globe sent birthday greetings via social media to the iconic pastor, revered preacher, noted Stellar Award-winning Gospel singer and recording artist, civil rights leader and humanitarian Reverend Clay Evans on his 94th birthday this past weekend, Dr. Zach Mills shared in the joy of celebration as his book, The Last Blues Preacher took top honors in the Biography category at this year’s International Book Awards.
The Last Blues Preacher: Rev. Clay Evans, Black Lives, and the Faith that Woke the Nation details Reverend Evans’ early days growing up in the south and experiencing racism first hand, his family’s migration to Chicago and his early days in ministry. The book pulls on candid and sentimental interviews from many of Reverend Evans siblings and close associates including historical figures like Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, Fr. Michael Pfleger, former presidential candidate, founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition Rev. Jesse Jackson, former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, Congressman Bobby Rush, and former Illinois governor Pat Quinn.
Mills shares words of appreciation. “I am indeed grateful to the International Book Awards for seeing the value The Last Blues Preacher offers this generation. It is the story of how an underdog overcame great challenges to unite people despite differences in race, class, religion and culture. The world really needs more people to be courageous enough to embody that kind of compassionate example.”
Praise continues to pour in for The Last Blues Preacher from scholars and preachers alike. Brad R. Braxton, director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. praised The Last Blues Preacher, saying: “The voice of Clay Evans, the legendary Chicago pastor and social activist, reverberates throughout this marvelous book. With a poet’s passion and a professor’s precision, Zach Mills chronicles Evans’s tenacious faith and audacious creativity. This faith enabled Evans to overcome social barriers for the sake of social justice. This creativity empowered Evans to use broadcast media as an electronic pulpit from which he has inspired so many. After reading The Last Blues Preacher, you won’t have the blues anymore. Your soul will sing Gospel.”
Though Evans retired from pastoral ministry in 2000 scholars emphasize the relevance of his ministry today. “This book not only offers readers a deeper description of the life of a son of the black church but also encourages leaders who desire to transform their communities and broader world,” said Keri Day, Associate Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.