- J. Lasley Dameron (1926–2016)
[We begin this obituary with a notice written by Lasley himself; following that, we include a tribute by Benjamin F. Fisher.]
Dr. John Lasley Dameron, ninety years old, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Memphis, passed away at the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House on June 27, 2016. Born in Burlington, North Carolina, he was the third child of Judge E. S. W. Dameron, Sr., and Lola Lasley Dameron. Reared in Burlington with his late brother, E. S. W. Dameron, Jr., who became an attorney at law, Dr. Dameron attended the University of North Carolina and graduated with a B.S. in commerce in 1950 and an M.A. in English in 1952. During World War II he served with the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman from 1943 to 1945. He was assigned for several months to the Third Marine Division and in February 1945 participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima. From 1953 to 1955 he served as instructor of English at Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia, and in 1962 he was awarded a Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee.
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In the fall of 1962 Dr. Dameron joined the English Department of Memphis State University, retiring in 1991. Throughout his academic career he published and edited articles and books on nineteenth-century American writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He continued his research after his retirement and remained active in several scholarly [End Page 245] organizations. He once served as president of the international Poe Studies Association from 1978 to 1980.
Dr. Dameron was an avid tennis player. He and his wife of sixty-six years, Elizabeth Virginia Eaddy Dameron, each won several local and regional tennis championships. They have two sons: Dr. George Williamson Dameron, Professor of History at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, and John Edgar Dameron, activity director at the Lodge, a retirement home in Carson City, Nevada. Dr. Dameron and his wife also have two grandsons and six great-grandchildren.
The death of Lasley Dameron (who ordinarily used his middle name in introducing himself, thus honoring his mother’s maiden name) brings to an end the senior generation of founding members of the PSA. The organization actually exists because of a discussion during an MLA conference in Chicago in 1971 between Lasley and Jim Gargano. From their desire to establish an umbrella organization for Poe scholars, the PSA was born. Officially begun in 1972, the PSA continues to thrive today, nearly a half century later.
After serving as the PSA’s vice president during Eric Carlson’s presidency, Lasley was elected president and served in that capacity from 1978 to 1980. Considering that the name of Poe often evokes strong opinions and strident exchanges, Lasley’s was always a voice that counseled graciousness and calm. Although he authored many studies of Poe, Lasley’s chief contribution to Poe studies is perhaps the bibliography of writings about Poe that he and Irby B. Cauthen published. This book reminds us that work about Poe abounds. Lasley was particularly interested in Poe as magazinist and in Poe’s sources. Although Poe was not Lasley’s sole interest (the writings of Emerson and Hawthorne were two other strong enthusiasms), his contributions to Poe studies maintain great value for those engaging that field.
Lasley will remain in memory as a genuine gentleman and scholar. [End Page 246]