Charles East, 1924-2009

LSU Press mourns the passing of Charles East who died last week at the age of 84. He served as editor (1962-1970) and director of LSU Press (1970-1975) and authored several books.

Bev Jarrett, a former editor-in-chief at LSU Press, offers this remembrance:

"Recalling my early years with Charles East and LSU Press is difficult. We were both so young and carefree back in the l960s, and we thought our work was vital. Or, to use Louis Rubin’s recent words, from another context, we thought we were “saving the world.” Perhaps in some small ways we were.

Charles was one of a handful of university press editors who believed in the short story, who believed that university presses were obliged to keep short fiction and poetry alive by publishing newcomers. His own short story collections, Where the Music Was and Distant Friends and Intimate Strangers, were very special, very southern. And the fiction he published at LSU Press and later at the University of Georgia Press was also quite fine.

When Charles first hired me as managing editor at LSU Press, I recall having to hold my breath and cross my fingers as I spoke up for a five-figure salary. And he agreed to it, even though four of the five figures were zeroes. That was so long ago that $10,000 a year seemed like a lot of money. The post of managing editor seemed like—indeed, was!—a challenging, exciting opportunity for a single mother in her twenties, trying to rear two daughters alone.

Charles was deeply committed to the small world of scholarly book publishing. He was proud of his southern heritage, in an era when being southern was not entirely a source of pride for us. He helped make the southern presses of that era into small success stories. The history and literature of the South reached far wider audiences because of his contributions to those southern presses.

In all the 40-some years since we first became acquainted, Charles remained my friend and the fast friend of the scholarly book publishing community. All of us will miss him and his wonderful contributions to our profession. All of the books he gave us—his own and those of other gifted scholars and writers—will live on in our libraries. Those books will serve as a tangible memory of our friend and our colleague."

You may read more about Mr. East's life in The Advocate and at the University of Georgia Press blog.