Evelyn Burnett Underwood
Evelyn was born in January 1943 in Hernando, Mississippi. She attended elementary school in the south until she was ten years old. Then, the family moved to Champaign, Illinois. She graduated from high school and got married at a very early age. Her children were born so close together, which cut short her lifelong dream of going to college and becoming either a social worker or counselor. Instead, she had to go to work to help support the family while the children were very small.
Her few business courses in high school, in addition to her academic courses, were helpful in acquiring a clerical position at a laundry. She started taking night courses at Adult Education and later at Commercial College through the National Secretaries Association. She became involved as a Board Member of several organizations that worked to advance society at large and exhibited a concern for the interest of all mankind. Among them were: The Community Development Board of Directors, Coordinating Committee for Quality Education, NAACP, The Champaign County Urban League, Champaign County League of Women Voters, the Douglass Center Library Board, and the N.C.N.W., to name a few. Evelyn was the first African American to be elected to the Urbana School District #116 Board of Education and served for 12 years. As an elected official, she served in many capacities, including the National Caucus of Black School Board Members. To fulfill her dream of formal training, she enrolled as a part-time student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education at the U of I Urbana-Champaign Campus from 1971-82, while also working full-time. She later received an Illinois Teacher Certification in upper elementary, junior high school and high school, including Special Certification in Guidance and General Administrative.
She took degrees from several universities. B.A. in Education, Sociology, and Political Science, E.I.U., Charleston, IL - August, 1983; J.D. Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington, IN - May, 1987; M.S. Edu. Dept. of Ed. Psych. & Guid., E.I.U., Charleston, IL - May, 1988; Ed.S. Ed. Admn., E.I.U., Charleston, IL - May, 1993; H.L.D. Dr. Humane Ltrs. (Honorary), Grant College, Birmingham, AL – 1995; Ph.D. Ed., Curr. & Inst., U of I at U.-C. - May, 2000
She was Associate Minister of the New Free Will Baptist Church before becoming Minister. She has worked alongside her husband, Pastor King James Underwood, to nurture the Christian Spirit among all of the members with particular emphasis on the youth.
In 2017, she ran for Mayor of Urbana, but lost to Diane Marlin.