Eva Kelly Lewis

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Eva Mae Kelly
Eva Mae

Eva Kelly Lewis was born June 6, 1903 in Atlanta, Georgia. Her father, Benjamin Moore, was a railroader and professional roller skater from Marietta, Georgia. Eva’s father, her older brother and sister Robert and Bertha performed spectacular feats on unicycles and special roller skates in Vaudeville as Buster Brown, Mary Jane and Happy Hooligan.


Eva and her younger sister Mitzi, learned a double trapeze act together. Collectively, they performed as the Moore Family Acrobats. In 1922, she and her sister went their own way, joining Gollmer Brothers Circus. “We performed a double trapeze act in center ring but were hired as general useful and also trained with horses and bears.” That fall, Gollmer Brothers Circus moved their winter quarters to Peru, Indiana. It was there that she met Emmett Kelly. They were married in the spring of 1923 and joined the John Robinson Circus as the Aerial Kelly’s, billed as a “lightning fast” double trapeze act. Their marriage and trapeze act eventually fell victim to the great depression.


Eva Mae the Clown
Eva Mae the Clown

Eva continued performing, but on single trapeze. In 1939, she married cop clown, Joe Lewis. Together they appeared in Shrine Circuses and fairs across the country. Eva performed Spanish Web, Cloud Swing, and Single Trapeze while Joe generally tended rope and entertained the audience with his humorous antics. Eva’s trapeze career ended at age fifty when she fell forty feet, breaking both her ankles. Undaunted, she appeared as a white-faced clown in a clown troop and later walked in parades, which she did until the age of eighty-six. She was a unique individual and character both in and out of make-up. She was appreciated and respected by her circus peers, and I am proud to be her grandson.
I will have considerably more to say about my grandfather in an upcoming book, Emmett Kelly, “America’s Favorite Clown!” The book is currently on hold while I finish LST-783, The Rest of the Story  featuring my father's tales and those of his shipmates found some 60 years later.

 Other Circus Relatives
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Emmett Kelly    Emmett Kelly Jr.    Joe Lewis    Grace, Jeanie, Mitzi

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Last modified: 06/07/12