Former history professor dies at 74

The University lost one of its professors this week, when history professor James N. Eaton Sr. died from a brief illness and hospital stay on Tuesday, according to a press release. Eaton was 74.

Eaton had been an employee of FAMU since 1958. From 1969 to 1977, he served his tenure as the chairman of the department of history, geography and African-American studies. Eaton also worked at the University’s Black Archives, a department Eaton was said to have had a special connection to as a historian.

Titus Brown, a history professor and friend of Eaton’s, said Eaton was like a mentor to him.

“He was like a father-type to all young people he encountered,” Brown said.

Brown recalled his time with Eaton, when the two worked together at the Black Archives. He said Eaton hired him as an intern in 1986. He said he “fell in love” with the Archives and volunteered the following semester before he was hired as a part-time employee in 1987.

“He rescued me from Pizza Hut on Tennessee Street,” Brown said with a chuckle.

He said he was working at Pizza Hut part time and attending graduate school at Florida State University.

Brown said through the years, he and Eaton remained colleagues and friends. He said they fished and traveled together, among other various activities.

Eaton started the James N. Eaton Endowment in 1983 to support Black Archives projects.

The new Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum, with completion scheduled for fall 2005, is to be named after Eaton and retired U.S. Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek.

Brown said Eaton was very protective of the Archives and had a deep love for history, the “history of our people.”

He recounted Eaton’s signature quote: “African-American history is the history of America.”

He said Eaton would often say that to remind people that blacks built the nation.

Eaton’s family asked that contributions be made to the Eaton Endowment in lieu of flowers. Checks should be made payable to the FAMU Foundation Inc. and mailed to P.O. Box 6562, Tallahassee, Fla. 32314.

Contact Lindsay Pollard at