Obituary: Rev. Dr. Evelyn Cassandra Graves, Community Leader, Founder Evelyn Graves Ministries and Drama Productions

Reverend Dr. Evelyn Graves was born in Marion, South Carolina, and she has always proudly acknowledged her birthplace. However, from the moment she moved to Philadelphia, her heart belonged here. She was an integral part of the Pennsylvania religious community and contributed her entire life to helping uplift Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania in many positive ways. By teaching and preaching the word of God for 50 years and being a community activist/developer in Southwest Philadelphia for much of that time, she has become a respected, beloved and admired figure in Philadelphia and wherever she traveled to preach the Word of God.

Evelyn was born on July 11, 1934 to the late Jethro and Alice Williams. She was the last surviving child of her 10 siblings from their parents’ wonderful union. At an early age, she accepted the Lord as her personal Savior, and she faithfully attended church and Christian-led activities, from revivals to conventions, while learning more about God, the Bible, and to see what God had her to do as she found her place in life.

Evelyn was united in holy marriage to the love of her life, John Wesley Graves, in 1952. He predeceased her in 2008. To this union were born six beautiful children, carefully nurtured in the South West of Philadelphia on Divinity Street.

In its early days in Philadelphia, the family gained spiritual strength from Calvary Baptist Church, Mt Zion Pentecostal Church, and Miracle Temple under the tutelage of Reverend RW Shambach.

Dr. Graves was employed by Mercy Douglass Hospital, serving delightfully in the communications and medical records departments, until the doors of the hospital, a staple of Southwest Philadelphia, closed in 1973. So While employed at Mercy Douglass, God’s call to empower the community was born. Dr. Graves opened his home 24 hours a day to help nurture local youth and adults in culturally and spiritually preservation efforts, often offering bus trips designed to broaden participants’ horizons, which ultimately helped to pave the way for individual and collective success for many of the people she has helped. She used her god-given artistic abilities to help convince gang members in the 1960s and 70s to stop gang wars. She has worked with drug addicts and alcoholics. She also worked on the societal blight of Southwest Philadelphia, while raising six well-adjusted children.

In 1971, Dr. Graves powerfully paved the way by actively establishing and building Evelyn Graves Drama Productions, followed by 37 programs, including Evelyn Graves Ministries Church, Day Care Center, Academy, Summer Day Camp in Philadelphia and Yeadon, PA, and The House. of prayer in Marion, South Carolina. These nonprofit humanitarian programs provided spiritual enrichment and preservation through cultural arts, education, mentoring, childcare, employment opportunities, and half-hearted commitment. million underserved families nationwide. Some of the halls of Evelyn Graves Drama Productions and the award-winning choir have played churches and recreation centers from Philadelphia to California, the historic Philadelphia Academy of Music, universities, cathedrals, festivals, the capital of the state in Harrisburg, Seoul, South Korea, the Eastern and Western Caribbean, 35 states and eight countries. The sincere, godly, and charismatic leadership and artistic abilities of Dr. Evelyn Cassandra Graves have opened doors for her and her production company over the years.

Dr. Graves, inspired by family and community, fueled weekly leadership engagements promoting healthy lifestyles, violence prevention training, workshops and performing arts training, nine months of accelerated Christian education. She opened the Academy in 1981 (before high school) thanks to three words: reading, writing and arithmetic.

Dr. Evelyn Cassandra Graves with one of her four daughters, Dr. Cassandra Graves. (Photo courtesy of Cassandra Graves)

Evelyn Graves Drama Productions and Evelyn Graves Ministries Church, two non-profit organizations, celebrated more than 50 years of history in the field of culture and the performing arts, in December 2021. During her life, she wrote seventeen beautifully written dramatic and multidisciplinary plays. His repertoire included some of the musical work of George Gershwin and the poetry of Langston Hughes. Executive Artistic Director Dr. Evelyn Graves has also always been quick to welcome and exhibit creative emerging artists. She did. Trinity Broadcast Network (WGTW) aired interviews with Dr. Graves and also presented one of the company’s original productions “Behold the Man” (the story of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ) to a television audience of three. million homes.

As a quiet, systemic, and practical pioneer, Dr. Graves has fueled many organizations, from start-up programs to established and successful institutions, and she has done it all with love, wise counsel, and other support mechanisms.

Her educational activities included Grambling State University, the Jameson Bible Institute, and the United Theological Seminary, where she earned doctorates in philosophy and theology. She has also earned certifications from the Christian Businessmen Association and the Hampton University Ministers Conference. She enjoyed regularly attending national Baptist conventions, as well as Church of God in Christ conventions. While Dr. Graves’ calling as a pastor, artist and educator was the cornerstone of what God had given her to do, she also developed powerful entrepreneurial skills. Recognized as a pioneer in creative community activities, she has received more than 200 humanitarian awards, recognitions and citations from state and local government, including Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony H. Williams, Representative of the Pennsylvania State Representative Joanne McClinton, Pennsylvania State Representative Louise Williams Bishop, National Association of Clergy Women, The Shirley Chisholm Award, The Mary McLeod Bethune Award, The NAACP Legend Award, The Pa. Council on the Arts, A WURD Radio recognition, an International Ambassador Award from Seoul, South Korea, and recognitions from both President William J. Clinton and President Barack Obama in 2015.

With the support of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell in 2016, Dr. Graves was honored to have part of Woodland Avenue, renamed “Dr. Evelyn Graves Road. The stabilization efforts of Evelyn Graves Ministries Church and Evelyn Graves Drama Productions in the community for more than five decades have enabled generations of food-insecure families to provide necessities such as food, housing, spirituality, preservation, education, employment and hope in targeted areas of the West and Southwest. Philadelphia and Delaware County, to date.

At the age of 87, Dr. Evelyn C. Graves’ mission continues. His iconic and inspiring artistry has been on display halfway around the world through a few of his productions – one in Israel in 2016 and another in South Africa in 2020.

The legacy that Dr. Graves began on “crazy faith,” has continuously served more than 900 Delaware County and Philadelphia families each month since 2012 with lifesaving humanitarian support, including 97,200 youth and adults. Evelyn Graves Ministries Church and Evelyn Graves Drama Productions will continue the incredible legacy and work started by Dr. Graves, with active projects at 55th and Chester Avenue in Philadelphia, and 1115 Whitby Avenue, Yeadon. His unwavering dream of building a multi-mixed housing complex and cultural wellness center at 51st and Woodland Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia continues.

Dr. Evelyn Graves is survived by: Six grown children: Four daughters, Melinda, Cassandra, R. Jean, Renee, and two sons, John and Derrick, and his faithful, devoted caretaker, Shirley Mae Tyson.

The official arrangements for in-home service for Dr. Graves are as follows:

Sunday, February 13, 2022, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: Evelyn Graves Ministries Church, 1115 Whitby Ave., Yeadon, PA 19050.


Monday, February 14, 2022 Visiting 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., return home 10:00 a.m.: The Church of Christian Compassion, 6121 Cedar Ave., Philadelphia PA 19143.

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