Obituary Note: Eileen Ahearn

Eileen Ahearn, former administrator of the James Baldwin Estate and a behind-the-scenes publishing consultant, died on January 6 at the age of 75.

As interest in Baldwin expanded during the last decade, Ahearn was involved in all aspects of the estate, including the transfer of Baldwin's archives to the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library, the optioning of film rights to If Beale Street Could Talk, and the naming of the James Baldwin Library at MacDowell.

Ahearn began her publishing career as a typist at Random House in the early 1970s, alongside the late Carolyn Reidy, the longtime head of Simon & Schuster, with whom she worked and consulted for five decades.

After leaving the typing pool, Ahearn became secretary to Toni Morrison, who at the time was an editor at Random House. She became a lifelong friend of Morrison as well as an adviser, accompanying the author to most personal appearances until her death in 2019.

While working for Morrison at Random House, Ahearn developed an expertise in contracts, particularly in foreign rights. Eventually corporate leadership relied on her to coordinate, modernize and streamline the overlapping functions of legal, contracts, rights and IT departments in order report royalties more accurately and fairly. In the late 1980s, she performed that function for Reidy when she was president of Avon Books.

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