The Ernest J. Gaines Center issued the following statement:
On November 5, 2019, Dr. Ernest J. Gaines peacefully passed away at his home in the presence of his wife, Mrs. Dianne Gaines. The legacy that Dr. Gaines is leaving behind is nothing short of brilliant and awe-inspiring. Born in 1933, on a plantation near New Roads, Louisiana, Dr. Gaines rose to prominence through his nine novels and several short stories reflecting the lives of African Americans, Cajuns, and Creoles living in the rural South. An award-winning author whose works have been translated into over 14 different languages, Dr. Gaines was the first Louisiana Humanist of the Year, a MacArthur fellow, Medal of the Arts recipient, and the holder of numerous honorary degrees. His novel, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, was one of the first neo-slave narrative and was required reading in French schools. A Lesson before Dying spent time on top of several literary best-seller lists and Oprah Winfrey’s 1997 book club. After receiving a Masters of Fine Arts from Stanford University and residing in California’s Bay Area, Dr. Gaines returned to Louisiana where he would live out the rest of his days. In 1981, he began working in the Creative Writing program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette until his retirement from teaching in 2010. After retiring, the University began the Ernest J. Gaines Center, an international research center and archive dedicated to preserving the life and works of the author. Though he touched countless people through his work, to know him was to love him. A towering man with a gentle voice, Dr. Gaines was an inspiration to generations and his death will be felt deeply by family, friends, and his University family.
Dr. Joseph Savoie, University of Louisiana at Lafayette president, also issued a statement.