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Evelyn Provitt (1930-2020)

Evelyn Provitt (1930-2020) was born in Massillon to Alfonse and Lucresie Provitt. She grew up on 13th Street SE with her two brothers and a sister. Evelyn graduated from Washington High School in 1948.

Her mother’s struggles with headaches led Evelyn to pursue nursing. Discrimination drove Provitt to apply outside Massillon to the Good Samaritan School of Nursing in Zanesville. “When she got accepted we were so happy,” said her cousin Ed Grier. “There was nothing around here for her. Even when they did start allowing blacks into nursing school (in Massillon) they weren’t allowed to stay in the dorm. The first black nurses had it rough.” Upon graduating in 1953 as a registered nurse, she returned to Massillon hoping to work at the City Hospital only to be turned away once again. She worked at Massillon State Hospital for several years before moving to Detroit, Michigan, where she received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in nursing from Wayne State College in 1965.

She served on the staffs of Henry Ford Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and as director of the former Division of Services for Mentally Retarded in Michigan.

In 1976, she was appointed Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as leader of National Advisory Council of Services and Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled 1973-1980. She was featured in Jet magazine, when she was sworn in as deputy commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. That same year, she was appointed commissioner of the newly created Administration on Developmental Disabilities in the office of Human Development Services.

After several decades working in Washington DC, she worked with the International Labour Organization in Egypt, where she taught nursing students and aided medical workers in learning English from 1981-1985. She directed special treatment programs in community health centers for Tri-Regional Washington Metro Area from 1986-2000. Provitt returned to Massillon in 2002 and was recognized as a Washington High School Distinguished Citizen.

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