From a small shop in Clito, Georgia, Bulloch County native Racer Evans built by hand 1,000’s cypress paddle boats that were as legendary as the man who built them.

At the monthly meeting of the Bulloch County Historical Society, member Dr. Brent Tharp walked the audience through the history and impact Race Evans boats had on our community.

The meal was catered by Annette McCray with A Touch of Class Catering.

Dr. Brent Tharp
Credit: Grice Connect

Racer Evans Boats

Racer was born in 1899 and died in 1977. He served as the Justice of the Peace for Bulloch County. He best known and credited with designing a boat that were a step up from the dug-out cypress canoes which were popular in the late 1800’s.

He built his first boat in 1910.

Racer’s boats were unique in design that the stern was narrower than the bow much like a canoe. However, the bow was wider to allow for another man or other cargo.

His designs were believed to be one of the earliest designs of the modern jon boat.

They varied from 8 foot to 16 foot and were built almost entirely of cypress planks. After WWII when marine grade plywood was introduced and wide cypress planks became harder to find, he used the plywood for the bottom of the boats. The sides and ribs continued to be made from Cypress.

Racer Evans prgram
Members of the Bulloch County Historical Society enjoy the program Credit: Grice Connect

He painted the boats two colors, Green or Gray. Some of the boats he did a natural stain on the interior. He also carved the paddles by hand.

One of the things that made Racer’s boats so unique was the fact that he never really worked from a blueprint. He would focus on the grains of the wood and use the wood to shape the boat.

The GS museum has one of Racer’s boats on display. It was donated to the museum by Cliff Thomas, III.

Watch the entire program below:

U.S. Speaker’s Racer Evans boat

Tharpe shared a video of the late Jimmy Franklin sharing stories about racer’s boats. While he was interning for Congressman Prince Preston, Preston invited the Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn down to fish with him on the Ogeechee. This led to Preston having Racer build a boat for the Speaker.

Continuing the tradition

William H. “Shorty” Long became an apprentice to Racer and continued building his boats after Racer’s death. Shorty’s son, Donald Long worked with his dad to learn the techniques of building a Racer Evans boat. Donald has the original templates and tools used to build the boats.

Dr. Tharpe shared a chronology of other well known boat builders in Bulloch County. He highlighted Gary Denmark, Jeff Robbins and Lee Tillman for continuing the tradition of hand making boats.

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DeWayne Grice

Herschel DeWayne Grice is the founder of Grice Connect an online news and information company in Statesboro, Georgia. DeWayne has been active in the media for over three decades. He brings a unique insight...