Seventeen years ago, Charles Eagles received a Lillian Smith Award for his extensively researched book about the civil rights movement in Alabama. Earlier this month, the University of Mississippi history professor earned the honor again, this time for his work chronicling events leading to the integration of UM nearly 50 years ago.
He is the first scholar to win the Smith award twice.
Eagles accepted the award for nonfiction at the 2010 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival. His book, “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss” (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), also received the 2010 nonfiction award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and the McLemore Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society.
The William F. Winter Professor of History, Eagles previously won the Smith Award for “Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Movement in Alabama” (UNC Press, 1993).
“Dr. Eagles provides the most insightful characterization we have of the enigmatic and controversial James Meredith,” said P. Toby Graham of the University of Georgia, who was one of the jurors for the award. “His coverage of Governor Barnett is so even-handed and credible as to have the effect of making Governor Barnett seem an even less sympathetic character than had Eagles used hyperbole in describing him. Dr. Eagles has written a remarkable and unflinching history of the institution for which he works.”
Eagles’ recognition is a tribute to both his scholarship and homage to the university, said administrators and colleagues.
“Dr. Eagles is a nationally known historian whose work has long been recognized at the highest levels,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Winning the Lillian Smith Award, for the second time yet, serves to emphasize his important standing in the community of academic historians. We are most fortunate to have him on our faculty.”
“It is no coincidence that Professor Eagles, who has now received two Lillian Smith Awards for his original contributions to knowledge, also won a 2010 Frist Student Service Award for his dedicated and exemplary work with students,” said Joseph Ward, chair of the Department of History. “The career of this highly distinguished, tenured faculty member exemplifies the inherent interconnection between scholarship and teaching at a flagship research university such as the University of Mississippi.”
A graduate of Presbyterian College and the University of North Carolina, Eagles has taught at UM since 1983.
The Lillian Smith Award was established by the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Council shortly after the death of the Georgia author in 1966. The award is presented annually to authors whose books are outstanding creative achievements that demonstrate through literary merit and moral vision an honest representation of the South, its people, problems and promises.
For more information about the Lillian Smith Awards, visit http://www.georgiacenterforthebook.org/Awards/ .
Visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/history/ for more information about the UM Department of History.