Myrtle Sue Lyles Eakin, known as Sue Eakin (December 7, 1918–September 17, 2009), was an American professor, newspaper columnist, and historian from Bunkie in Avoyelles Parish, who researched Louisiana history, particularly the Old South plantation system.

Early years:

Eakin was born on the Compromise Plantation in the Lyles community at Loyd Bridge near Cheneyville in south Rapides Parish, the eldest child of the nine surviving children of Samuel Pickles Lyles, Sr., and the former Mary Myrtle Guy. She graduated from Lecompte High School.

On January 31, 1941, Sue Lyles married Paul Mechlin Eakin, Sr., (July 19, 1917–February 6, 1995) of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later New Jersey. They resided in Bunkie, where he was an accountant and she a professional freelance journalist and a columnist for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, the Opelousas Daily World, in Opelousas, the seat of St. Landry Parish, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, traditionally the state’s largest newspaper. From 1957 to 1959, Paul and Sue Eakin owned and operated the Bunkie Record newspaper.

At the age of 42, she began commuting to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge to earn two master's degrees, one in journalism and the other in history. Her graduate work was financed by a grant; she was one of thirteen students in the nation to receive an educational grant from the American Association of University Women.

Teaching and research:

Eakin then began a 25-year teaching career at Louisiana State University at Alexandria, which had been established in 1960 as a junior college, later made a four-year institution. In an interview with The Town Talk, her LSUA colleague, Patsy K. Barber of Lecompte, recalled Eakin as "a master teacher [who] researched, she knew her topic and knew how to place her topic into the larger setting. She could hold you spellbound. The creative ideas just spilled out." Barber and Eakin collaborated on several books about the history of Rapides Parish and Lecompte.

Eakin's best known work is an edited 1968 version of the slave diary by Solomon Northup: Twelve Years a Slave-- And Plantation Life in the Antebellum South. Northup was a free black man from Saratoga Springs, New York, who was captured into slavery in 1841 and brought to Louisiana. The book is considered one of the best firsthand accounts of slave life in existence.

Eakin received numerous research grants, awards, and honors, including the 1970 designation as "Outstanding American History Professor" from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In 1987, she was named to the "Distinguished Faculty of the LSU System". The Bunkie Rotary International named her "Citizen of the Year" in 1985. In 1980, she was named "Distinguished Artist of Avoyelles Parish". In 1995, she was grand marshal of the Festival du Courtableau, or Washington Catfish Festival in Washington in St. Landry Parish. In 2001, she was named to the Hall of Fame of the LSU Manship School of Mass Communications in Baton Rouge, named for Douglas Manship, former publisher of Baton Rouge Morning Advocate.

At the age of 60, Eakin received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette. She continued writing and research projects after her retirement as a professor emeritus at LSUA. A new edition of Twelve Years A Slave was produced in 2007 with much additional material regarding Solomon's years in New York as well as the local plantation community. Eakin was 88 at the time of publication.

Eakin was also an archivist for the Louisiana State Archives and Records Service in Baton Rouge. Along with a sister, Manie L. Culbertson, Eakin published in 1986 Louisiana, The Land and Its People, the textbook used in junior high classes of Louisiana history. Another of her works is Avoyelles Parish: Crossroads of Louisiana. She had numerous publications.

Sue was a student and scholar of history, which spanned over 90 years.

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.

Professionally, she will be remembered most for editing Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, the diary of a free man sold into slavery, one of the most compelling slave narratives in American history.

Eakin died at the age of 90 at her home in Bunkie. At her death, her children donated her extensive collection of documents, diaries, photographs, farm implements, her own notes, and drafts of several historical manuscripts in progress to the Archives of Louisiana State University Alexandria, where it was her hope that others would continue her research.

Thank you Wiki.
R. Moore, Founder, Solomon Northup Day: a celebration of freedom.