Dr. James N. Eaton, Sr.
James Nathaniel Eaton, Sr., earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Afterward, he worked as a history professor at Miles College, and a patrolman and assistant principal in Richmond, Virginia before accepting a position as professor of history at Florida A&M University in 1958.
In 1969 through 1977, Professor Eaton served as the chairman of FAMU’s Department of History, Geography and African-American Studies. In 1975, he was named founding archivist, curator and director of what is now the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum. For the next three decades, he helped amass a collection of memorabilia and printed records that today comprise one of the Southeastern region’s largest collections of first-source material relating to the history, culture and contributions of people of African decent living in the United States of America. The diverse collection was built on the premises of his personal motto that “African American History is the History of America.”
Professor Eaton is nationally and internationally known for his work and expertise, in the areas of American, African-American, Southern and Russian history. He was selected “Most Outstanding Teacher of the Year” 25 times in his 45 years of teaching at FAMU. Anyone who had his class or listened to one of his lectures is considered “Eatonized.” In 1978, Eaton was named FAMU’s first “Distinguished Professor.” Additionally, he was a key player in having the historic Carnegie Library placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and FAMU campus designated as a National Historic District in 1998.
In 1981, Eaton, with a group of dedicated community members, co-founded the Friends of the Black Archives. The non-profit volunteer group is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of African American history, and was founded to support and promote greater interest in the center and its public services. In 1983, the James N. Eaton Endowment was established to render further support to the museum and archives.
The noted archivist, curator, educator, and historian is the recipient of hundreds of accolades and awards. Some of his most prestigious honors include being named “Professor of the Year” in 1991, by Florida’s Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and in 1997, Florida Memorial College bestowed upon him the Doctorate of Humane Letters. After nearly five decades of dedicated scholarship and public service, in 2003 Dr. Eaton announced his retirement. That same year, the university bestowed upon him the title of Professor Emeritus. Additionally, in recognition of his dedication in the areas of education, American, African-American and world history, in 2003, a bill was introduced in the Florida Legislature that proposed naming the new Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum expansion facility the Meek-Eaton Building in his honor, and in honor of his close friend and colleague, U.S. Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek (retired).
In 1983, the James N. Eaton Endowment Fund was established to help support the projects, programs and services of the Southeastern Regional Black Archives. If you would like to contribute to this fund please contact the center at (850) 599-3020 for additional information.