• Ernest J. Gaines, author of 'The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,' dead at 86

    By: Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    Author Ernest J. Gaines, a Louisiana native whose literary works included the books "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," and "A Lesson Before Dying," died Tuesday, WBRZ reported. He was 86.

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    The Ernest Gaines Center also confiirmed the novelist's death on Twitter.

    Gaines, who was presented with the 2012 National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama for his contributions as an author and teacher, had four of his novels made into movies. That included his 1971 novel about Jane Pittman, a young slave at the end of the Civil War who lived to participate in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. The book was adapted into a 1974 television movie starring Cicely Tyson.

    "A Lesson Before Dying," released in 1993, was loosely based on the life of Willie Francis, a black man sentenced to death during the 1940s in Louisiana. It became part of Oprah's Book Club in 1996, and was adapted into a 1999 TV movie starring Tyson and Don Cheadle.

    Gaines, a Pointe Coupee native, was born on a plantation near New Roads in 1933, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported.

    "I was born here, stayed here, lived here until I was 15. It was because I could not go to a high school around here, in New Roads or Pointe Coupee," Gaines told WBRZ in February.

    In addition to novels, Gaines wrote short stories and taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as a writer-in-residence from 1981 to 2004, The Advocate reported.

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