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Evans, Thomas Cooper

Published onJul 30, 2021
Evans, Thomas Cooper

(May 26, 1924 – December 22, 2005)

Quick Facts

Evans held several agricultural positions in the federal government. While in Congress, Evans helped draft legislation to assist the Farm Credit System and played a substantial role in drafting the 1981 and 1985 farm bills.


Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Thomas Cooper Evans received his BS in mechanical engineering in 1949 and MS in civil engineering in 1955, both from Iowa State University.

He worked for the Atomic Energy Commission, on general staff at the Pentagon, as a director of Advanced Lunar Missions for NASA from 1963-1965, served in the Iowa House of Representatives, 1974-1980, U.S. Congress from 1980-1986 and advisor to the U.S. President.

Mr. Evans spent 22 years in Washington, including 14 years in the Army. He served as a staff member of the Atomic Energy Commission and was director of lunar missions at NASA in the early 1960’s.

He served Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District from 1980-1986. He didn’t run in 1986, but was hired by Governor Terry Branstad to study ways to improve Iowa’s grain quality and exports. The Des Moines Register named him Iowa Farm Leader of the Year in 1989. Mr. Evans served in the elder Bush administration through 1991.

He was honored for Distinguished Service to Agriculture in 1996 from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, among others.

The Grundy Center farmer-engineer-lawmaker-career soldier who advised President George Bush on farm policy matters found success frequently. He ran for Congress in 1980 to fill the post given up by Charles Grassley in the U.S. House of Representatives after his successful Senate bid. While in Congress, Evans criticized President Reagan and his administration for not being sensitive enough to the 1980s farm crisis credit situation. He helped draft legislation to assist the Farm Credit System and sought tougher grain quality laws.

Evans served on the House Agriculture Committee his entire six-year tenure and played a substantial role in drafting the 1981 and 1985 farm bills. When he decided to leave Congress, he told a reporter he didn’t think anyone should make a long “career” in the House of Representatives. It was said Evans was also impatient with how slow the legislative system worked. As an engineer, he preferred to tackle a problem head-on and solve it.

George Bush Sr. recruited Evans to head his agricultural policy committee during his 1988 presidential campaign. Then, after elected, Bush asked the Iowan to be his White House farm advisor. Evans might have been more interested in Agriculture Secretary, but he took the position, traveling widely to present farm policy views and goals of the president. He emphasized agriculture over politics and focused on how to recruit young people to farming. Through 1996, Mr. Evans worked for Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance, working on free-enterprise agriculture policy initiatives in the former Soviet Republics and Eastern Bloc states.

After 1996, Evans withdrew from public life and returned to farming. As a manager of Evans Farms, Inc., Evans was developing a 675 acre farm in Sullivan County, Missouri, for beef cattle production, horticultural tree crops, and aquaculture.

In March 2005 Evans told the Sioux City Journal "I can remember when I was younger, working through the party, I often said, 'Gee, I wish these old folks would step aside,' you know? When I got that age, I decided I was going to clear out and let someone else take over.”

Former senator Chuck Grassley said Evans was a forward thinker, as evidenced by his established walnut tree farm. Walnut trees are recommended to grow for 30 years before harvesting the wood.

"He was an outstanding congressman, from the standpoint of a person who did his darndest to reach an independent judgment after considering all the facts and all points of view of his constituents. As a White House adviser, he brought the concerns of agriculture directly before the first President Bush," Grassley told the Sioux City Journal after Evans’ death.

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

Bio from the Iowa Legislature website:

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