The Richard Beale Davis Award for Distinguished Lifetime Service to Southern Letters is awarded every other year at the biannual conference of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature. The Award honors a writer or scholar who has made distinguished lifetime contributions to southern letters. The award is named after the Society’s first president, Richard Beale Davis, who served in that position from 1969-1970. Davis’s important scholarship about life and literature in the colonial and antebellum South resulted in a number of notable studies, including the three-volume Intellectual Life in the Colonial South, 1585-1763 (1978), which received the National Book Award for History in 1979.
Ernest J. Gaines, author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), A Lesson before Dying (1993), and other widely-respected works of fiction, received the first Richard Beale Davis Award in 2002. Winners of the award attend and give a reading at the biannual SSSL conference.
Richard Beale Davis Award Winners
Ernest J. Gaines, writer-in-residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and prize-winning author of A Lesson Before Dying (1993) and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) as well as numerous other books and short stories.
Louis D. Rubin, Jr., North Carolina editor, educator, publisher, and scholar who has published more than forty books, fostered the careers of writers including Clyde Edgerton, Kaye Gibbons, and Lee Smith, and mentored scores of teacher/scholars specializing in American literary studies and southern studies.
Ellen Douglas, the distinguished author Josephine Ayres Haxton, writing under the pseudonym Ellen Douglas, who has published nine books of fiction and nonfiction, including the critically acclaimed Can’t Quit You, Baby (1988) and Truth: Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell (1999).
M. Thomas Inge, Robert Emory Blackwell Professor of English and the Humanities at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and the author or editor of more than fifty books, including the critically acclaimed Handbook of American Popular Culture (1979; 1989) and the volume on literature for The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (2008).
Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, Millsaps College Humanities Scholar in Residence and recently retired as the Fred C. Frey Chair in Southern Studies at Louisiana State University, who has served as editor of The Southern Quarterly, general editor of the one-hundred volume Literary Conversations published by the University Press of Mississippi, editor of numerous other volumes, including Women Writers of the Contemporary South and Eudora Welty: Critical Essays, president of SSSL, SCMLA, and the Eudora Welty Society, and who was the 1994 recipient of the NEH Frankel Prize for her outstanding contribution to the humanities.