John Egerton, an authority on the history of Nashville, Tenn., Southern cuisine and the early days of the civil rights movement, has died.
The Tennessean reports that Egerton passed Thursday morning from a heart attack at 78. Over his career that stretched for nearly five decades, Egerton is best known for his books, “Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South,” a story of Southerners who opposed segregation in the 1930s and 1940s and “Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History,” which inspired countless cooks to rethink traditional recipes. He also wrote two books on Nashville, including a 1979 history commemorating the city’s bicentennial and a picture-rich, turn-of-the-millennium look at the city.
Egerton’s work helped reshape views of the Nashville region. According to friends and family, Egerton, who grew up in Cadiz, Ky. And moved to Nashville in 1965, tried to find and understand the stories of uncelebrated Southerners, those whose names never appeared in history textbooks and whose traditions often were ignored.
Egerton’s passion for Southern cooking led him to co-found the Southern Foodways Alliance in 1999, a Mississippi-based nonprofit that studies food in the South. The organization issues an award annually in Egerton’s name, honoring activists who promote social justice in the food industry.
In addition to his wife Ann and son Brooks, Egerton is survived by another son March, a Nashville developer; his brother, Graham, of Cazzenovia, N.Y.; his sister, Anne McDaniel, of Owensboro, Ky.; and four grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been set.
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