Ernest Gaines, Beloved Author, 1933–2019
November 25, 2019
Ernest Gaines, the author of acclaimed works of fiction and treasure of American letters, passed away November 5. He was eighty-six. His memory was celebrated during a funeral held Saturday, November 16, reported The Advocate.
Born in 1933 in Coupe Parish, Louisiana, Gaines moved to California at age fifteen, where he would later be awarded a coveted Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, launching his prolific literary life. Gaines went on to pen several nationally recognized works of fiction, including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, In My Father’s House, and most recently, A Lesson Before Dying, which was awarded the 1993 National Book Critics Circle Award. He earned a MacArthur Foundation grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Humanities Medal, a National Medal of Arts, and many other accolades.
Gaines’s influence on American readers is far-reaching and profoundly deep. At his funeral, Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actor Cicely Tyson recounted her relationship with the author. “He introduced me to all of those women that he grew up listening to, being taken care of, being loved by,” she said. “And I stood there in absolute wonder. How was he able to take all of these lives and combine them into one brilliant character?” Tyson starred in the 1974 film adaptation of Gaines’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a statement saying Gaines “used his immense vision and literary talents to tell the stories of African Americans in the South. We are all blessed that Ernest left words and stories that will continue to inspire many generations to come,” according to NBC News.
Photo Credit: AP Photo / Paul Kieu