Greg Evers’ closest confidantes all remember him the same way: “honest,” “humble,” and “down-to-earth.”
“He was very kind,” said Evers’ longtime spokeswoman Sarah Bascom. “For him, it was people over politics. And for some people that sounds like a cliche, but for [Evers,] that’s how he was.”
Evers died earlier this week when his car veered off the road near his home in Baker, Florida. He was 63 years old.
The North Florida Republican first stepped onto the political scene in 2001 in a special election for the Florida House of Representatives when Jeff Miller decided to run for Congress.
It was during this special primary election when Evers met the woman who would be one of his strongest allies in the Florida Legislature: former National Rifle Association president and Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer.
Initially, Hammer and the NRA weren’t on Evers’ side — the group endorsed his primary opponent, C. Robert Hilliard. For many, the endorsement would have meant a stark divide with the NRA — many would have found it difficult to make amends with the pro-gun group afterwards.
Not Greg Evers.
The night before the GOP primary, Evers picked up the phone. He called Marion Hammer.
“He said, ‘Miss Marion, I want you to know I’m going to win this election and I don’t hold anything against you. When I am elected I am going to be the strongest Second Amendment supporter you could ask for,’” Hammer told Sunshine State News. “And he was.”
Hammer called the moment “one of the classiest things” she’s seen in her 42 years working in the legislative process.
“That epitomizes the class and character of the man,” she recalled. “That’s the only time in my career that any candidate on opposite sides took the time to say, ‘I understand why you’re not with me, but I’ll be with you anyhow when I am elected.’”
Evers won the primary, went on to win the general election and never stopped fighting for the Second Amendment.
During his 15 years in the Florida Legislature, Evers pushed a series of bills related to gun rights.
One of the biggest pieces of legislation he helped pass was the “warning shot” bill, which revised Florida’s self-defense laws to exempt certain acts of self-defense from Florida’s “10-20-Life” mandatory minimum sentences in certain gun cases.
In 2014, Evers advocated a ban on schools punishing students for playing with simulated weapons. Dubbed the “Pop Tart” bill, it was signed into law later that year.
Evers also pushed to allow concealed weapons onto college campuses, alleging it would make college campuses safer.
Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, then a House member, carried the campus carry companion bill. Evers, he said, was always welcoming and was a passionate advocate for every piece of legislation he carried.
“Every pro-Second Amendment bill, he believed in,” Steube told SSN.
As Evers and Steube continued to work together on gun rights bills, they developed a close relationship Steube says left an indelible mark on his career as a lawmaker.
“He was a mentor to me,” Steube said. “I would constantly go to him for advice. He would always respond and call you back, answer the phone calls. He called me back when he was on the tractor at his strawberry farm once.”
Indeed, there was more to Evers than his fierce style in lawmaking. His friends and family remember him as a simple strawberry farmer who loved to laugh — and loved to share the fruits of his labor — the ripe, red strawberries — with his friends.
Hammer remembers Evers bringing her grandchildren strawberries every time they were in season because he knew they loved them so much.
Evers was more than a coworker, she said. He was a true friend.
“You didn’t just work with him, he was your friend,” she said. “He made you his friend.”
Bascom, too, remembers the strawberries, a touching reminder of Evers’ generosity, warmth and camaraderie.
“We will remember him on his farm and being so proud to serve us strawberry shortcake, that to this day, is the best strawberry shortcake we have ever had,” said Bascom.
Though he left the state legislature last year, Evers remained active in politics until the very end.
He recently attended Sen. Jack Latvala’s gubernatorial announcement in Panama City, where he famously “photobombed” a picture of Latvala, just one example of Evers’ infectious sense of humor.
“Loved this guy,” Latvala wrote.
Fellow lawmakers remembered Evers’ fair approach to all those he came in contact with, regardless of their political position or ideology.
“Courtly, kind, generous. Even to a sometimes opponent,” said former Sen. Don Gaetz, whose son, Matt Gaetz, ran against Evers for Congress last year. “In the circles within circles of the Florida Senate, Greg and I weren’t always on the same side when it came to intramural politics, but we were always together when it came to Northwest Florida’s needs and values. We were always friends.”
But for some, there aren’t enough words to describe the tenacity of Greg Evers.
“You can’t describe him in a few words,” said Hammer. “He was more than that, and that’s very rare today.”
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