Sue Eakin: 1918-2009
This morning, I was saddened to hear of the passing of my great aunt, Sue Eakin, who died at the age of 90 in her home in Bunkie. Sue was one of a dozen of Lyles siblings, which includes my paternal grandmother Joanne, all of whom grew up on Compromise Plantation in Loyd Bridge, Louisiana (near Cheneyville).
I hadn’t seen or spoken with Aunt Sue in several years, but very recently, I had the opportunity to pass along some amazing news (which, unfortunately, I cannot disclose here) to three of her children that, I hope, will ensure her work continues to inspire and educate for many, many more years. (And I know the news thrilled her).
Professionally, she will be remembered most for editing Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave, the diary of a free man sold into slavery, one of the most compelling slave narratives in American history. Additionally, along with her sister Manie, she also wrote the textbook used in junior high Louisiana History classes.
A couple of years ago, I directed readers to a website Sue published about the history of Central Louisiana. As far as I know, she never stopped pursuing her passion- creatively conveying the history of the people of Louisiana.
Considering Aunt Sue was a student and scholar of history, it is only fitting to provide her history, which spanned over 90 years:
Family: Born December 7, 1918, in Loyd Bridge, LA; daughter of Samuel Pickles, Sr. (a planter) ( I’ve always thought it’s awesome that Pickles is a family name) and Myrtle (Guy) Lyles; married Paul Mechlin Eakin, Sr. (a financial consultant), January 31, 1941; children: Paul Mechlin, Jr., Russell Lyles, Sara Eakin Kuhn, Samuel Fred, Frank. Education: Louisiana State University, B.A., 1941, M.A. (history), 1964, M.A. (journalism), 1965; University of Southwestern Louisiana, doctoral study, 1976. Politics: “Just an alert, concerned citizen.” Religion: Methodist. Memberships: Louisiana Historical Association (member of board of directors, 1973-76), Historical Association of Central Louisiana (member of board of directors, 1975), Les Avoyelles Commissiones.
Worked during the 1950’s as a columnist and feature writer for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Alexandria, LA, as editor and co-owner of Bunkie Record, Bunkie, LA, and as feature editor, columnist and reporter for Opelousas Daily World, Opelousas, LA; Louisiana State University, Alexandria, assistant professor of history, 1964–. Archivist for Louisiana State Archives and Records Service.
National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1974; outstanding American history professor award from Daughters of the American Revolution, 1975; Louisiana Committee of the American Revolution Bicentennial research award, 1976.
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
- (Editor with Joseph Logsdon) Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853, Louisiana State University Press, 1968.
- (Editor and author of introduction) Manie Culbertson, Let Me Speak, Pelican Press, 1970.
- (Editor) Walter Prichard, Outline of Louisiana History, Pelican Press, 1972.
- Some History of Rapides Parish: A Sourcebook, Louisiana Committee of the American Revolution Bicentennial, 1976.
- (With Norman Ferachi) Vanishing Louisiana, Beauregard Press, 1977.
- (With others) Avoyelles Parish-Crossroads of Louisiana Where all Cultures Meet, Moran (Baton Rouge, LA), 1981.
- (With Culbertson) Louisiana, the Land and Its People, Pelican Press (Gretna, LA), 1986.
- Rapides Parish: An Illustrated History, Windsor (Northridge, CA), 1987.
- Washington, Louisiana: Fabulous Inland Port, Historic Getaway to the Southwest, Everett Companies (Bossier City, LA), 1988.
- (Editor) William Hicks, History of Louisiana Negro Baptists and Early American Beginnings from 1804-1914, University of Southwestern Louisiana (Lafayette, LA), 1998.
- Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave: 1841-1853, Pelican (Gretna, LA), 1998.
- “Louisiana’s Cultural Heritage,”.
- “Louisiana’s Physical Features,”.
- “Louisiana’s Wildlife Resources,”.
- “Louisiana Manufacturing,”.
- “Louisiana Minerals,”.
- “Louisiana Mineral Conservation,”.
- “Plantation Revolution: Planters, Negroes and Machines,”.
- “Acadians of Louisiana,” and “A Louisiana Boucherie.“.
Contributor to Louisiana Heritage. Editor of Back Tracking, 1974-76.
Sue Eakin writes:
I was born in central Louisiana where blacks, plantation whites and blacks, and hill country people were represented in the society. This was at the end of the Bourbon period when the planter class Redeemers and Southern industrialists banded together to recreate the Southern caste system. I grew up caught in the position of empathizing with all three groups, and even as a child planned what I wanted to write, and wrote since I can remember, to show these different peoples in the affectionate light in which I saw them. To me, none of the groups seemed to be accepted by the other two, and to me there was a great deal of positive good in all of them. I planned to study in a scholarly way a long list of subjects–English, sociology, journalism, history, and economics, which would help me to understand the Southern people, my people, all of them.