Dr. Evelyn Graves born in Marion South Carolina is an integral lifelong contributor in Pennsylvania and the nation with long lasting genuine warm embrace for family, constituents, and community.
She was born in Marion South Carolina July 11, 1934, to the late Jethro and Alice Williams and the last surviving of ten children from this wonderful union. At an early age she accepted the Lord religiously attending spirit lead activities from revivals to conventions to find her place in life.
Evelyn was joined in holy matrimony to John Wesley Graves in 1952; he preceded her in death 2008. And from this union was six beautiful children gingerly nurtured in Southwest Philadelphia (Divinity Street). In her early days in Philadelphia, the family gain spiritual fortitude from Calvary Baptist Church, Mt Zion Pentecostal Church, and Miracle Temple under the tutelage of Rev. R W Shambach.
Dr. Evelyn Graves was employed by Mercy Douglass Hospital, delightfully serving in communications and medical records unto the doors of this community staple on Woodland Ave closed in 1973. While employed at Mercy Douglass the call of God to empower the community was birth. She opened her three-story row home on Divinity Street 24 hours a day to help nurture, local youth and adults in preservation efforts culturally and spiritually. Often providing bus trips design to broaden the horizon of participants paving the way for unique individual and collective success. She utilized her artist gift to help stop gang wars, addictions, and societal blight in Southwest Philadelphia all while raising six well-adjusted children.
In 1971 Dr. Graves powerfully trail blazed the way by establishing and actively fortifying Evelyn Graves Drama Productions followed by thirty-seven programs to include Evelyn Graves Ministries Church, Day Care Center, Academy, Summer Day Camp in Philadelphia and Yeadon, PA including The House of Prayer, Marion, South Carolina. These non-profit humanitarian programs provided spiritual enrichment, preservation though cultural arts, education, mentoring, childcare, employment opportunities, engaging half a million underserved families nationwide. Historical venues as Philadelphia Academy of Music, universities, cathedrals, festivals, State Capital Harrisburg PA, Seoul Korea, Eastern and Western Caribbean, thirty-five states and eight countries received positive interventions from the charismatic leadership and artistic renderings of Dr. Evelyn Cassandra Graves.
Dr. Graves inspired by family and community fueled weekly leadership engagements promoting healthy lifestyles, in prevention training in the performing arts, nine months of Christian Education, After School Care, yearly 20 cultural arts presentations, STEAM programming for at risk youth and their families.
Evelyn Graves Drama Productions and Evelyn Graves Ministries Church non-profit organization celebrates over 50 years of history in the cultural and performing arts engaging seventeen beautifully written dramatic multidiscipline theatre pieces. Repertoire includes works of George Gershwin, Langston Hughes, and Executive Artistic Director, Dr. Evelyn Graves displayed by creative emerging artists. Trinity Broadcast Network (WGTW) aired interviews with Dr. Graves and ministries featuring one of the company’s original productions of ‘’Behold the Man,’’ The Crucifixion Story to a television viewing audience of three million homes.
As a quite systemic hands-on trailblazer, she fueled many organizations from startup programs to established institutions with love and great support.
Educational pursuits include Grambling University, Jameson Bible Institute, and United Theological Seminary where she received doctorates in Philosophy and Divinity. She also obtained additional certifications from The Christian Businessmen Association and Hampton University Minister’s Conference. Dr. Graves’s vocation as a pastor, artist and educator graciously developed powerful entrepreneur skills. A pioneer in creative community pursuits, she has received over 200 humanitarian acknowledgments and citations from state and local government including Senator Anthony H. Williams, State Representative Joanne McClinton, State Representative Louise Williams Bishop, National Association of Clergy Women, Shirley Chisholm Award, Mary McLeod Bethune Award, NAACP Legend Award, PA Council on the Arts, WURD Radio, recognition, International Ambassador Award from Seoul Korea recognition from President William J. Clinton 1995 stating “…I applaud you for your many contributions to our society…” and President Barrack Obama in 2015.
With the support of Councilwoman Janie Blackwell 2016 Graves received Honorary Designation from the City of Philadelphia of a street renamed in her honor as “Dr. Evelyn Graves Way,” in Southwest Philadelphia. Evelyn Graves Ministries Church and Evelyn Graves Drama Productions stabilization efforts in the community for over five decades empowered generations of food insecure family’s necessities including food, housing, spirituality, preservation, education, employment, and hope in targeted areas of West Philadelphia and Delaware County even unto this day.
Dr. Evelyn C. Graves age 87, mission continues. This iconic inspirational pioneer sacred artistry was produced in Israel, 2016 South Africa in 2020 with the repertoire targeted return in 2022. The legacy continuously serves over 900 families in Delaware County and Philadelphia monthly since 2012 with life sustaining humanitarian support including 97,200 youth and adults. She is loved, appreciated, adorned by the family she carefully nourished, Christ Chapel, ministers, bishops, entrepreneurs, and performers, students the community and faithful members locally and across the waters.
Evelyn Graves Ministries Church, Evelyn Graves Drama Productions and the amazing legacy continues with active projects at 55th and Chester Ave, Philadelphia, 1115 Whitby Ave Yeadon, PA, and her steadfast dream building a Multi-mix Housing complex and Cultural Wellness Center at 51st and Woodland in Southwest Philadelphia.
Dr. Graves was truly a beautiful pastor, iconic innovator, and creative pioneer, mentor, motivated by God’s love for people.
Dr. Evelyn Graves, a resident of Delaware County since the late 70’s, is the proud loving mother of six adult children: Four daughters Melinda Graves-Story, Cassandra Graves, R. Jean Jones, Renee Nance and two sons, John Graves, and Derrick Graves. Faithful dedicated caretaker, Shirley Mae Tyson. Six brothers and three sisters (all preceded in death), Emmanuel, Ladson, Roosevelt, Clarence, Jethro, Donald Williams, late Mardenia Richardson, Alexzenia Page, and Elista M. Davis (Denise Gregg) Marion South Carolina; eleven grandchildren, nine great grandchildren, three Sister-in-laws Mamie Richardson, Kay Frances Graves and Beulah Floyd and a host of nieces and nephews.