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Dr. Sue Lyles Eakins

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Sue Lyles Eakin, professor and historian, died Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009, at her home in Bunkie. An author and editor of history books, she retired from her professorship from LSU at Alexandria after 25 years of teaching. She spent her professional life researching and writing about local history and citizens, particularly the history of the plantation system. She is perhaps best known as editor of "Twelve Years as A Slave: Solomon Northup" and coauthor with her sister, Manie Culbertson, of the textbook "Louisiana: The Land and Its People." Dr. Eakin was recognized throughout her professional career with many grants, awards and honors, including 1970 Outstanding American History Professor of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Distinguished Faculty of the LSU System in 1987, 1985 Citizen of the Year by Bunkie Rotary Club, 1980 Distinguished Artist of Avoyelles Parish, Grand Marshall of the Festivale du Courtableau in 1995, and 2001 membership in the Hall of Fame of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. Sue Eakin was born in Lyles (Loyd Bridge), eldest child of Sam and Myrtle Guy Lyles. She graduated from Lecompte High School and LSU, marrying Paul Mechlin Eakin of Pittsburgh in 1941. They made their home in Bunkie, where Mrs. Eakin worked as a professional freelance journalist and regular columnist for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, the Opelousas Daily World and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. From 1957 to 1959, she and her husband owned and operated the Bunkie Record. Beginning at age 42, she commuted to LSU to earn two master's degrees, one in journalism and one in history. Then she began her teaching career at LSU-Alexandria, also doing research for her many historical projects. At age 60, she received her doctorate in history from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Though she retired as a professor, she didn't stop writing history or weekly newspaper columns until her health prevented her from continuing. She is survived by four children, Dr. Paul M. and wife Scottye Eakin, of Lexington, Ky., Dr. Sara Eakin and husband Stephen Kuhn, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., Sam and wife Joan Eakin, of Gaffney, S.C., and Frank and wife Jan Eakin, of The Woodlands, Texas. In addition, she is also survived by her grandchildren, Dr. Guy and wife Michelle Eakin, Libby Eakin, Dr. Susan and husband Jonathan Blank; Gretchen and husband Jason Burgess, Walter Kuhn, John-Paul Kuhn, Kate Eakin, Kelly Eakin, Hudson Eakin, Amanda Eakin and Paul Eakin; and six great-grandchildren. Her six sisters survive her: Mrs. Betty McGowen, Mrs. Manie Culbertson, Mrs. JoAnn and husband Paul White, all of Alexandria, Mrs. Grace and husband Ken Uffman, Baton Rouge, Mrs. Nancy Durham, Wallis, Texas, and Mrs. Kitty and husband Gerry Coleman, Laguna Niguel, Calif. Numerous nephews and nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces and cousins also celebrate her memory. She was preceded in death by her husband and a son, Russell Lyles Eakin. Visitation will be at Melancon Funeral Home in Bunkie on Sunday, Sept. 20, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Visitation will continue at Trinity Episcopal Church in Cheneyville on Monday, Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. until funeral service at 11 a.m. Burial will be in the church cemetery under the direction of Melancon Funeral Home, 108 N. Lexington Ave., Bunkie. You may sign the guestbook and offer online condolences to the Eakin family at www.melanconfunerals.com.
Published in The Advocate on Sept. 20, 2009
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