Ernest J. Gaines
1933 - 2019
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Ernest J. Gaines, internationally acclaimed author, Writer in Residency Emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Layfayette (UL), native and resident of Oscar, Louisiana entered into eternal rest at the age of 86 on November 5, 2019 at his home with his devoted wife of 26 years, Dianne Gaines. Ernest J. Gaines was born on January 15, 1933 on River Lake Plantation in Oscar, Louisiana in Point Coupee Parish. He was the son of Adrean Jefferson and Manual Gaines and was raised by his beloved great-aunt, Augusteen Jefferson. He lived and worked on that plantation until he was fifteen. As a child he wrote letters for the old people who could not write and read letters that they could not read themselves. He absorbed with love the culture in which he lived. At the age of fifteen, his mother and stepfather sent for him to join them in California where they had gone for better work and opportunities. Ernest was the oldest of his siblings born in Louisiana and was not able to continue his education there because of the lack of schools for African American children in certain areas of the South. It was when he went to California that he was first able to go to a library. He loved the library and reading but soon realized that there were no books about him or his people. He concluded that with so many books in the library, it must not be too difficult to write a book and decided to do just that. At the age of sixteen, he convinced his mother to rent a typewriter for him. His first attempt at what would become the novel, Catherine Carmier, was rejected by a New York publisher. In disgust, he burned his work in the backyard; but the desire and determination to write never left him. After attending high school and serving in the United States Army, Gaines returned to college. His first short story, The Turtles, was published when he was a student at San Francisco State. It drew the attention of Dorothea Oppenheimer who became his literary agent until she died. Gaines went on to write ten books of fiction which have been translated in 19 countries. His work, while situated in Louisiana, addresses universal challenges to human dignity of all people. His characters illustrate the human capacity to confront oppression with dignity and strength. Four of his works have been made into films (The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, 1974; "The Sky is Gray", 1980; A Gathering of Old Men, 1987; and A Lesson Before Dying, 1999). In addition, Gaines' life and work have been presented in three documentary films, sixteen scholarly books and 25 doctoral dissertations. Gaines holds honorary doctorates from 19 universities. He was a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Gaines was named the first Louisiana Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment of the Humanities. In 1993, he received a John D. and Catherine T. MacAuthur Foundation Fellowship. The Chevalier honor was presented to him in Paris by Pamela Harriman, the United States ambassador to France, in 1996. At that time, Gaines was a visiting professor at the University of Rennes, where he taught the first creative writing class in the French University System. Ernest James Gaines, the little boy from Cherie Quarter, went on to receive the National Medal of The Humanities from President Bill Clinton; the National Medal of The Arts from President Barak Obama; the Order of Arts and Letters in Paris; the National Book Critics Circle Award; and numerous other awards. In presenting the National Medal of the Arts at the White House, President Barak Obama praised Ernest J. Gaines "for his contributions as an author and teacher. Drawing deeply from his childhood in the rural South, his works have shed new light on the African-American experience and given voice to those who have endured injustice." Among his other honors, Gaines was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, received the National Governor's Association Award for lifetime contribution to the arts, and the Louisiana Center for the Book Writer of the Year Award. He also received the Aspen Prize for Literature, the Cleanth Brooks Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature, the Celebration of Black Writing Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Hurston/Wright Foundation Northstar Award. In 2015, he and his wife, Dianne, received the Foundation for Historic Louisiana Award for the Preservation of the Cherie Quarter Church and Cemetery at River Lake Plantation. After his retirement, Gaines and his wife built a home on property along False River that was once part of the plantation where he was born. For 20 years they have been activists in preserving the cemetery where his ancestors and two of his brothers are buried. Each year on the last Saturday in October, they organize and host a cemetery beautification day honoring all who lived and died in Cherie Quarter. In 2006, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation established the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. The award "honors the legacy of one of America's finest literary treasures." The $15,000 annual prize is awarded to an emerging African American writer selected by a committee of judges who are successful authors and professors. In 2010, UL formally opened the Ernest J. Gaines Center, an international research center on Gaines and his work. Gaines' original manuscripts, papers, all editions and translations of his work, his awards, prizes and other memorabilia are housed in the Center. Mourning his passing, but celebrating his life are his wife of 26 years, Dianne Saulney Smith Gaines; stepdaughters, Maria Smith Williams and Jennifer M. Smith; stepsons, Jonathan A. Smith and Stephen M. Smith; siblings, Lois Young, Charles Colar (Elizabeth), Norbert Colar, Joseph Mack Gaines, Michael Colar (Linda), Deborah Colar (Jesse), Leonard Colar, Sambra Colar, La Vern Colar (Gennisa), Oze Gaines (Linten), Leonard Gaines, Sr. (Checkita), Beatrice Johnson, Helen Harris, Carolyn McCullam (Robert), Mary Thomas (Frank) and Isiah Gaines, Sr. (Patricia); step grandchildren, Annalisa M. Smith and Nicholas M. Smith, LaKeisha Nowicki (Kyle) and Samantha Bencomo (Louis); former daughters-in-law and special friends, Bianka LaBeouf Smith and Sharon Smith Gardner; and many nieces, nephews and friends. Preceded in death by his father, Manuel Gaines; mother, Adrean Colar; stepfather, Raphael Colar; brothers, Lionel Gaines, Eugene Gaines, Nathaniel Gaines and Manuel Gaines, Jr. Visitation and Family Hour Friday, November 15, 2019 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Hall's Celebration Center, 9348 Scenic Hwy., Baton Rouge, LA. Visitation continues Saturday, November 16, 2019 12:00 pm until religious service at 1:00 pm, Hall's Celebration Center. Reverend Levert Kemp, officiating. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Ernest J. Gaines Center, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, P.O. Box 43539, Lafayette, LA 70504, (337) 482-1848, or Mount Zion River Lake Cemetery, P.O. Box 81, Oscar, LA 70762. Services entrusted to Hall Davis and Son.

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Published in The Advocate from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16, 2019.
04:00 - 06:00 PM
12:00 - 01:00 PM
Memories & Condolences
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77 entries
January 31, 2021
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Gloria A. Coleman-Brown
December 16, 2019
God is a God of all Comfort and he will Comfort the family's...My heartfelt condolences
November 26, 2019
My condolences goes out to the family and friends may they find peace and comfort from the God of all comfort in the hearer of prayers
New York
November 25, 2019
God is a God of all Comfort and he will Comfort the family's...My condolence..
November 25, 2019
My deepest sympathy on the loss of Mr. Gaines. His ability to share his experiences in the South is truly meaningful.
November 24, 2019
Our condolences to the dearly beloved Mrs. Gaines and her entire family, friends and all of those whose lives Mr. Gaines touched with the legacy of his great works. May our loving Heavenly Father grant you all love, peace and comfort!

JM, Brandon, MS.
November 20, 2019
For the
Rest Peaceful Mr. Gaines. Your work lives on.
Ledoris Allen
November 18, 2019
November 18, 2019
Our Condolences and Prayers are with you,
Diane and family. all the great memories,
Books written and acclaimed honors he received will always be with you!

From the Detiege Family
November 18, 2019
My condolences go out to you mrs. Diane games and the entire family. my name is Mel Davis and I used to wait on you at Joseph a banks in baton rouge. May God give you comfort
Melroy Davis
November 18, 2019
Dianne, Ruby and Gaines and Colar families,
The stories and memories E.J. shared and generated will last forever. His writings elevated people society overlooked. Thank you for sharing him with the world. May you be comforted by loving memories and the condolences of so many.
Brenda Brent Williams
November 17, 2019
Our thoughts and prayers are with you Gaines family. My daughter and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gaines last year at LA Book Festival. I am so glad for the God given talent that Mr. Gaines willingly shared with all of us. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on.
Sonja Butler
November 16, 2019
June Phenix and Family of Baton Rouge La Manuel Jr. granddaughter
November 16, 2019
June Phenix and Family of Baton Rouge La Maurice Jr. granddaughter
November 16, 2019
Offering prayers for a fallen Soldier.
Barry Jarreau
November 15, 2019
My condolences to the family.I pray that God continue to give you the strength to deal with this difficult time in your life.
Deborah Stephens
November 15, 2019
The family have our Condolences. MR. GAINES will be missed by so many people and his movies will go on through life showing all of his movies ..
Lydia Dorsey
November 15, 2019
To my dearest family, some things I'd like to say...
but first of all, to let you know, that I arrived okay.
I'm writing this from heaven. Here I dwell with God above.
Here, there's no more tears of sadness; here is just eternal love.

Please do not be unhappy just because I'm out of sight.
Remember that I'm with you every morning, noon and night.
That day I had to leave you when my life on earth was through,
God picked me up and hugged me and He said, "I welcome you."

It's good to have you back again; you were missed while you were gone.
As for your dearest family, they'll be here later on.
I need you here badly; you're part of my plan.
There's so much that we have to do, to help our mortal man.

God gave me a list of things, that he wished for me to do.
And foremost on the list, was to watch and care for you.
And when you lie in bed at night, the day's chores put to flight.
God and I are closest to the middle of the night.

When you think of my life on earth, and all those loving years
because you are only human, they are bound to bring you tears.
But do not be afraid to cry; it does relieve the pain.
Remember there would be no flowers, unless there was some rain.

I wish that I could tell you all that God has planned.
But if I were to tell you, you wouldn't understand.
But one thing is for certain, though my life on earth is o'er.
I'm closer to you now, than I ever was before.

There are many rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb;
but together we can do it by taking one day at a time.
It was always my philosophy and I'd like it for you too...
that as you give unto the world, the world will give to you.

If you can help somebody who's in sorrow and pain,
then you can say to God at night......"My day was not in vain."
And now I am contented....that my life has been worthwhile,
knowing as I passed along the way, I made somebody smile.

So if you meet somebody who is sad and feeling low,
just lend a hand to pick him up, as on your way you go.
When you're walking down the street, and you've got me on your mind;
I'm walking in your footsteps only half a step behind.

And when it's time for you to go.... from that body to be free,
remember you're not're coming here to me.

Ruth Ann Mahaffey (author)
©Copyright 1998
Mr and Mrs Felton Spooner
November 15, 2019
Praying, Praying, Praying for the family, God knows your pain.
Easter Sterling
November 15, 2019
To the Colar and Gaines families,and especially you Norbert,Jr and others- your Colar,Bayonne,Gosserand and Richard families share your grief.
Be assured that our love and unity will see us through.
Lloyd and I send love and prayers to you and the family.
Sorry, I could not be with you on Saturday-be assured our hearts and prayers showered you guys with love.
I will be contacting you and continue to share my ongoing script with you.
Dr Jeannette Richard Derosin
November 14, 2019
Mr. Gaines was an exceptional writer. His work will be remembered. Please accept my sincere condolences.
JE Sowell
November 14, 2019
I am sorry for your loss
Delores Bergeron
November 14, 2019
My deepest sympathy goes out to the Gaines' family . May the true God comfort your broken hearts. For Psalms 50:15 says call and He will deliver in the day of distress.
November 14, 2019
mr. ernest gaines I just found out all these years who was the author of miss jane pittman I might have heard off you but now I know rest in peace with jesus brother from scott washington
November 14, 2019
My heartfelt sympathy to the Gaines familly at this most difficult time. Be assured that God will help you cope with the heavy weight of your loss. Mr Gaines lived a very fruitful life . May the beautiful memories you shared help to strengthen and sustain you. Psalm 68:19
November 14, 2019
Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. Remembering you and your loved one today and always.
Donnettia Houston Thomas and Family
November 14, 2019
It can be so hard to face the first year without your loved one, but the love of family and friends can carry you through.
Elaine Pounds Thomas and Family
November 14, 2019
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always.
Will Hargrove
November 14, 2019
My condolences to the family of Ernest Gaines for your loss, May the God of comfort be with you at this time of Sorrow.
November 13, 2019
Mr. & Mrs. Patricia Augustus Phenix Hayes and Family of Baton Rouge La
November 13, 2019
Mr. And Mrs. Judy Augustus Guy and Family of Baton Rouge La
November 13, 2019
November 13, 2019
A. Wesley's Funeral Home and Staff extend our heartfelt condolences and are keeping the Gaines Family in our thoughts and prayers.
Jackie Wesley
November 13, 2019
We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Dianne Gaines and Family. May you find comfort in the knowledge that Dr. Ernest J. Gaines lived a life of purpose and is now with the Lord and may that same Jesus grant each of you the strength to continue his legacy of Faith and good works. He left an indelible imprint in our memories. It is our prayer that you find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared our life and educational journey through and with him. Our prayers and thoughts are with you.
Ginger F. Smith & Family
November 13, 2019
An excellent and powerful Author my deepest condolences to the Gaines family on your loss may the memories of wonderful times you shared bring comfort now and in the days to come
November 11, 2019
What an excellent author and story teller! I own a couple of his books, they will be cherished. My sincere condolences to the Gaines Family. May the God of all comfort provide you all the strength to cope with your loss.
November 11, 2019
Condolences to the family of Ernest Gaines,

We hope and pray that the many encouraging comments on this site provide you with some comfort in the days ahead.

We pray that you continue to treasure the memories of your life with your dear one who is now in the memory of the One who has the best memory of all!
Ann Lin
November 11, 2019
Our deepest condolences to the family. We pray that God continues to strengthen and comfort you all during this difficult period.
November 11, 2019
He will be missed.
Newton Collier
Significant Other
November 10, 2019
To the Gaines Family,

I too had the pleasure of enjoying the movie Miss Jane Pittman and more importantly reading Mr. Gaines book: A Lesson in Dying . . . may the Universial God continue to bless your family during this difficult time.
Olivia Lombard
November 10, 2019
Thank you Mr. Gaines for your great work. RIP My dear brother.
Jon Kydd
November 9, 2019
I had the pleasure of reading both of his most famous novels (both were made into movies) which proves he was a very talented writer. I thank u Mr. Gaines for giving the world a peek into the black experience through one's penmanship providing a better understanding of what injustices we had and still continue to go through..WHAT A MAN!!..PRAYERS and BLESSINGS to the family.....MUCH LOVE❤❤
Valenda Newell
November 9, 2019
Our deepest sympathy to the Gaines family in their time of such a great loss, may God continue to be at your sides.
Anna Houle-Simmons
November 9, 2019
Our sincere condolences to the Gaines family. May the God of all comfort provide you all the strength to cope with your loss
November 8, 2019
Please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss. May your treasured memories of Ernest always fill your heart with love and peace
November 8, 2019
Condolences to the Gaines family and his many friends and fans, who found his words inciteful and inspiring. May the words of our living God and creator at this time provide you with comfort and hope.
November 8, 2019
Words are powerful. Mr. Gaines had the power of words
on paper and in black and white. The community of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana thank you sir, we were blessed to have
you back in our mist.
Alton & Sharon Warr
November 8, 2019
November 8,2019

Dear Family of Mr. Ernest Gaines:

Mr. Gaines was a wonderful, and talented author. He will truly be missed by all those people who loved him. I am reaching out to all of you. Please remember that you all loved him, but The Lord, Our God who is truly awesome, and wonderful will love him the best of all. WITH MY CHRISTIAN SYMPATHY, MS. VALINDA DARLENE JONES, OF CINCINNATI, OHIO. I USE TO LIVE AT 5839 SOUTH MAPLEWOOD IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (A HOUSE).
November 8, 2019
My condolences to the Gaines family, what an amazing talent, he will be greatly missed.
November 8, 2019
My condolences go out to the Ernest Gaines family.
November 8, 2019
My condolences to the Gaines family.
November 7, 2019
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will miss you always.
Will Hargrove
November 7, 2019
My condolences to the Gaines family

Mr. Ernest Gaines was a literary genius and we humbly thank him for his gifts. They are treasured. May he rest in peace.
Sonja Graves
November 7, 2019
In loving memory of a wonderful person. We will love you and miss you always.
Sherwin Collins
November 7, 2019
My prayers and condolences and heartfelt sympathies, are extended to the family,friends and readers.
In earthly last chapter of, a very great author the Earnest Gaines.
His soulful touching writing touched the hearts of many,and will thoses to come.

November 7, 2019
My deepest sympathy. He will always be with us through his written words.
Madeline Swift
November 7, 2019
To the family of Ernest Gaines
You've lost a love one and that's a hard pill to swallow. but no that he's at rest. you can be happy that you have him, So you're loving memory
will always be with you.
November 7, 2019
My condolences to Mr. Gaines family. To quote a Frost poem- Gaines certainly took the road less traveled and that made all the difference.
May all find comfort from this loss in the hope that the living and true God provides in His Word.
November 7, 2019
Thoughts and prayers to the Gaines family.
November 6, 2019
November 6, 2019
"The act of writing, is the intention of it. The root . . . is liberation."

I extend condolences to the Gaines family.
Charles Sullivan
November 6, 2019
I am sorry to learn of Mr. Gaines passing. Thank you for telling such wonderful stories. I pray that you are now at the feet of our Lord listening to all the great testimonies of the Saints.
November 6, 2019
"I remember seeing Mr. Gaines at ODU for their Presidents Lecture series. I truly enjoyed his works of literature. Such truth told in novel form. My condolences to the Gaines family.
Marsha Vann
November 6, 2019
Such a great life filled with blessing. Thank you to Gains family for sharing such a wonderful Author. Rest in Peace
Dianne Smith
November 6, 2019
I am sorry to hear of Mr. Gaines death. I have read both of his book and enjoy them very much. May the family seek God during this difficult time to help ease their pain. John 3:16.
November 6, 2019
Sincere condolences to the Gaines Family. May the God of comfort and peace cushion your grief with tenderness and love as you cope with this dear loss in your life. He will truly be missed.
November 6, 2019
One of my favorite authors! As a librarian I had to convince many readers that Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman --was a novel. He was such a great writer. My sympathy to his family, friends and readers.
Sharon Crenshaw
November 6, 2019
Joan Walton
November 6, 2019
The Hawkins family send
condolences on to the Gains family which is our family rest in peace Mr. Ernest Gains, gone but never forgotten
Margaret Hawkins Montgomery
November 6, 2019
I remember the inherent quiet power of the theme in the Ernest Gaines short story, "The Sky is Gray", that I taught to my freshman high school students back in the '70s. My condolences to the family and friends of this dedicated author who has left an important literary legacy for future generations of readers to appreciate and enjoy.
Les Breese
November 6, 2019
Thank you sir for living out your vision with the world. Well done.
November 6, 2019
Ann Stokman
November 6, 2019
...Well Done Thy Good & Faithful Servant.
Corey Mathis
November 5, 2019
To the Gaines Family:

I remember and enjoyed the story of Miss Jane Pittman. May Mr. Gaines rest in Jesus.

Betty Henderson
November 5, 2019
Cynthia Herd
November 5, 2019
Thank you for gifting us with your literary & creative genius. Rest in Power, Peace & Paradise.
Maryam Raoof
November 5, 2019
Prayers for the Gaines family and all his fans.I loved reading his books
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