Dale Evans was the stage name of Frances Octavia Smith (October 31, 1912 – February 7, 2001), a writer, movie star, and singer-songwriter. She was the third wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers.
Born Lucille Wood Smith
, her name was changed in infancy to Frances Octavia Smith. She had a tumultuous early life, eloping at the age of fourteen with her first husband, Thomas F. Fox. She bore one son, Thomas F. Fox, Jr. when she was fifteen. Divorced in 1929 at seventeen, she married August Wayne Johns that same year, a union that lasted until their divorce in 1935. She took the name Dale Evans
in the early 1930s to promote her singing career
. She then married her accompanist and arranger Robert Dale Butts in 1937. In 1947 she married Roy Rogers
. The marriage was his third, her fourth. Together they had two children and were happily married for 51 years.
A songstress emerges
After beginning her career singing at the radio station where she was employed as a secretary, Evans had a productive career as a jazz
, and big band
singer that led to a screen test and contract with 20th Century Fox
studios. She gained exposure on radio as the featured singer for a time on the Edgar Bergen
During her time at 20th Century Fox, the studio promoted her as the unmarried supporter of her teenage "brother" Tommy (actually her son Tom Fox, Jr.). This deception continued through her divorce from Butts in 1946, and her development as a cowgirl co-star to Roy Rogers at Republic Studios.
Evans married Roy Rogers at the Flying L Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma, on New Year's Eve 1947. Rogers ended the deception regarding Tommy. Rogers and Evans were a team on- and off-screen from 1946 until Rogers' death in 1998. Together they had one child, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down's Syndrome shortly before her second birthday. Her life inspired Evans to write her bestseller Angel Unaware. Evans went on to write a number of religious and inspirational books.
From 1951 to 1957, Dale Evans and her husband starred in the highly successful television series The Roy Rogers Show, in which they continued their cowboy/cowgirl roles, with her riding her trusty buckskin horse, Buttermilk. In addition to her successful TV shows, over 30 movies, and 200 songs, Evans wrote the well known song "Happy Trails". In later episodes of the TV show, she was outspoken in her Christianity telling people that God would assist them with their troubles and imploring adults and children to turn to God for help.
In the 1970s, Evans recorded several solo albums of religious music. The 1980s saw Rogers and Evans introducing their films weekly on The Nashville Network. In the 1990s, Dale hosted her own religious television program.
Evans died of congestive heart failure on February 7, 2001.
For her contribution to radio, Dale Evans has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
at 6638 Hollywood Blvd. She received a second star at 1737 Vine St. for her contribution to the television industry. In 1976, she was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame
at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
in Oklahoma City
. She ranked #34 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music
- Dale Evans Biography. The Roy Rogers - Dale Evans Museum. Retrieved on 2008-02-05..
- Zwisohn, Laurence. (1998). "Dale Evans". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 166-7.