Lucille Wood Smith was born in Uvalde, Texas on October 31, 1912 however her name was soon changed to Frances Octavia Smith. Frances’s childhood was cut short after she eloped with Thomas F. Fox at the age of fourteen. In 1929 they were divorced and Frances was left with a son. She would be remarried two more times before finding her final husband of 51 years, Roy Rogers. Frances took the name Dale Evans in the early 1930’s to promote her singing career and landed a job with a local radio station in Memphis, Tennessee singing and playing piano. This led to a one-year contract with 20th Century Fox studios where she gained a lot of exposure and opportunities, one of which was a contract with Republic Studios. Dale was featured in “The Cowboy and The Senorita”, a western film in 1944 where she starred opposite Roy Rogers. This would be the first of 28 films that the two would make together. They would also develop their own production company in 1950 where they would produce their hit television serious, “The Roy Rogers Show.”
But there is one aspect of her life she has never written or spoken about, her diabetes.
“I was diagnosed with diabetes after our little Korean girl was killed on our church bus,” Dale says. “My whole body simply went into reverse. The next morning I was on my way to UCLA to see Roy, who had had an operation on his neck. After I got out there, I couldn’t rise out of my chair or eat anything. “She saw her doctor who did a glucose tolerance test. “I was loaded!” she recalls.
That was in 1964, but Dale says it’s likely that she had diabetes a long time before that. “My mother developed the onset of her diabetes when she was in her 80s,” Dale says. “I should have know it then. But you think you are going to be free of it forever.”
She has one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to radio and another for her contribution to the television industry. Dale was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She won the Cardinal Terrence Cook Humanities Award in 1995 and ranked #34 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002. Dale Evans died February 7, 2001, of congestive heart failure at her home in Apple Valley, California. She was 88.