Famed author Ernest J. Gaines, known for writing The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, has passed away. He was 86.
According to the Associated Press, Gaines, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist and MacArthur Foundation fellow, died in his sleep of cardiac arrest at his home in Oscar, Louisiana.
He was most known for employing themes about the struggles of African-Americans in rural Louisiana throughout his writing.
John Davies, CEO and president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which sponsors a literary award in Gaines’ honor, spoke highly of the literary legend in light of his passing.
“Ernest Gaines was a Louisiana treasure,” he said. “He will be remembered for his powerful prose that placed the reader directly into the story of the old South, as only he could describe it. We have lost a giant and a friend.”
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also remembered Gaines’ legacy and contribution to the state’s rich culture in a statement of his own.
“[Gaines] used his immense vision and literary talents to tell the stories of African Americans in the South,” he said. “We are all blessed that Ernest left words and stories that will continue to inspire many generations to come.”
Throughout his career, Gaines boasted several prestigious awards and accolades. He was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1993 and received the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2013.
He is survived by his wife, Dianne Saulney Gaines, four stepchildren and nine siblings.
We send our heartfelt condolences to his friends, family and loved ones during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.