Evelyn Tucker (1906-1996)
Born in Pensacola, Florida on August 15, 1906, Nettie Evelyn Tucker studied art at the University of Miami. Prior to World War II, she held an administrative position with a secret division of Pan American World Airways devoted to installing radar systems on air bases around the world. Joining the war effort through the Women’s Army Corps, she served with the weather department and U.S. Army Air Corps counter-intelligence. Following her release from active duty, she became a secretary/stenographer during Hermann Goering’s war crimes trial before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. In February 1946, Tucker received her assignment to the MFAA. She worked first as Administrative Assistant, and later Fine Arts Officer, at the Reparation, Deliveries and Restitution (RD&R) Branch of the U.S. Allied Command, Austria (USACA) in Salzburg, Austria. Due to restructuring within the MFAA, she held the post of Fine Arts Officer from March to July 1946 and again from October 1947 to February 1949.
As a representative of the MFAA in Austria, Tucker maintained offices in Vienna, Salzburg, and Linz. She kept inventory records of the branch’s art objects and personally investigated restitution claims within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forces, Austria (USFA), including the collections of the national museums in Warsaw and Cracow, and the Lipizzaner Horses. Collaborating with various foreign agencies, she witnessed firsthand the delicate balance of power involved in returning art objects stolen or acquired during the war. Tucker advocated for better cooperation between Germany and Austria after the war and befriended German warehouse workers. On one occasion, she was invited by locals to a private German Fine Arts Dance, at which she was proudly the only American present.
Evelyn Tucker actively investigated the subject of art looting by American officers and courageously denounced the use of looted art as décor in Officers’ Clubs and the personal offices of generals. After her post was terminated in February 1949, she returned to Florida, working as desk sergeant of a police station and opening Eve Tucker Gallery on Miami Beach. In 1965 she relocated to New Mexico, working as a Vista volunteer and finding work as a quality control specialist on a Navajo reservation with the New Mexico Office of Health and Social Services. Tucker immersed herself in the local community, taking active roles in the Friends of the Santa Fe Public Library, the Santa Fe Rodeo, and the Santa Fe Community Foundation, where she established an unrestricted memorial endowment in her name. Today, the Evelyn Tucker Endowment Fund sponsors many local organizations devoted to the arts, including Warehouse 21 (the Santa Fe Teen Arts Center) and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. She was a member of the American Association of University Women, the American Indian Committee, the American Legion, the National Federation of Republican Women, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Evelyn Tucker died in Santa Fe, New Mexico on August 17, 1996.
Photo courtesy of Guy Tucker (private collection).