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Dale Evans was the stage name of Frances Octavia Smith (October 31, 1912 – February 7, 2001), an American writer, movie star, and singer-songwriter. She was the third wife (after the death of his second wife) of singing cowboy Roy Rogers.

Biography

Early life

Born Lucille Wood Smith in Uvalde, Texas, her name was changed in infancy to Frances Octavia Smith. She had a tumultuous early life. At age 14, she eloped with her first husband, Thomas F. Fox. She bore one son, Thomas F. Fox, Jr., when she was 15. Divorced in 1929 at age 17, she married August Wayne Johns that same year, a union that ended in divorce in 1935.

She took the name Dale Evans in the early 1930s to promote her singing career. In 1937, she married her third husband, accompanist and arranger Robert Dale Butts. In 1947 she married Roy Rogers. The marriage was his third and her fourth. Dale had a son from her first marriage, Tom Jr. Roy had an adopted child, Cheryl, and two natural children, Linda and Roy (Dusty) Jr., from his second marriage. Evans and Rogers together had one child, Robin, and adopted four others: Mimi, Dodie, Sandy, and Debbie. They were 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, swing, 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/Charlie McCarthy show.

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.

Joint efforts

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 Syndrome shortly before her second birthday. Her life inspired Evans to write her bestseller Angel Unaware. Evans was very influential in changing public perceptions of children with developmental disabilities and served as a role model for many parents. After she wrote Angel Unaware, a group then known as the “Oklahoma County Council for Mentally Retarded Children” adopted its better-known name Dale Rogers Training Center in her honor. 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 and cowgirl roles, with her riding her trusty buckskin horse, Buttermilk. Alice Van-Springsteen served as a double for both Evans and Gail Davis, the actress who starred in the syndicated series Annie Oakley, often performing such tasks as tipping over wagons and jumping railroad track. In addition to her successful TV shows, more than thirty films and some two hundred songs, Evans wrote the well-known song "Happy Trails." In later episodes of the television program, she was outspoken in her Christianity, telling people that God would assist them with their troubles and imploring adults and children to turn to Him for guidance.

In the fall of 1962, the couple co-hosted a comedy-western-variety program, The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show, which aired on ABC. It was canceled after three months, losing in the ratings to the first season of The Jackie Gleason Show, another comedy-variety program, on CBS.

Roy Rogers and Evans at Knott's Berry Farm in the 1970s

In the 1970s, Evans recorded several solo albums of religious music. During the 1980s, the couple introduced their films weekly on the former The Nashville Network. In the 1990s, Dale hosted her own religious television program.

Evans died of congestive heart failure, two and a half years after the death of her fourth husband Roy Rogers.

Legacy

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, Oklahoma. She ranked #34 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002.

Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, a daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, co-authored Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Frank Thompson.

In her exhibit at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Dale Evans is quoted accordingly:

"'Cowgirl' is an attitude really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head-on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands; they speak up. They defend things they hold dear."

The Dale Evans Movie

KZ Pictures is in the development stage of two Dale Evans themed projects. The first is a documentary which focuses on the complete life of Dale Evans, her discography and filmology, and will feature numerous celebrity interviews. The second project will be a major motion picture centered on the early life of Dale Evans including her famous songs, "Happy Trails" and "The Bible Tells Me So."

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