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Ernest J. Gaines - October 2000

Ernest J. Gaines

Novelist, National Humanities Medalist and Louisiana native Ernest J. Gaines was named recipient of the first Louisiana Writer Award in 2000. He was honored by the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana for his extraordinary contributions to the state's literary heritage exemplified by his body of work.

The prestigious Louisiana Writer Award has been given annually since 2000 to recognize outstanding contributions to the literary and intellectual life of Louisiana.

Gaines is the author of novels Catherine CarmierOf Love and DustThe Autobiography of Miss Jane PittmanIn My Father's HouseA Gathering of Old Men and A Lesson Before Dying. He has also written a collection of short stories, Bloodline, which includes "A Long Day in November."

Gaines' writings have been translated into other languages, including German and French. Several of his works have inspired media adaptations, including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (CBS, 1974), which won nine Emmy Awards. "The Sky Is Gray," a short story originally published in Bloodline, was adapted for public television in 1980. A Gathering of Old Men, adapted from Gaines' novel, aired on CBS in 1987. In My Father's House was adapted for audiocassette. A Lesson Before Dying was filmed for Home Box Office in 1999 and was adapted for the stage by Romulus Linney in 2001.

In addition to the Louisiana Writer Award, Gaines is recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship, Stanford University, 1957; Joseph Henry Jackson Award, San Francisco Foundation, 1959, for "Comeback" (short story); National Endowment for the Arts award, 1967; Rockefeller grant, 1970; Guggenheim fellowship, 1971; Black Academy of Arts and Letters award, 1972; fiction gold medal, Commonwealth Club of California, 1972, for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and 1984, for A Gathering of Old Men; Louisiana Library Association award, 1972; award for excellence of achievement in literature, San Francisco Arts Commission, 1983; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters literary award, 1987; MacArthur Foundation fellowship, 1993; National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, 1993, for A Lesson before Dying; made Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (France), 1996; inducted into Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, Chicago State University, 1998; Emmy Award for Best Television Movie, 1999, for adaptation of A Lesson before Dying; National Humanities Medal, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2000.

Gaines was born in 1933 in Oscar, La. He attended Vallejo Junior College, received a B.A. from San Francisco State College (now University) in 1957 and did graduate study at Stanford University from 1958 to 1959. He has received honorary doctorates of letters from Denison University, Brown University, Bard College, Whittier College and Louisiana State University.

Gaines has been a writer-in-residence at Denison University, Stanford University, University of Southwestern Louisiana at Lafayette and Whittier College. He also served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1955.