May 28, 1916
Walker Percy was born in Birmingham on this day. His father was a lawyer who worked for coal and iron companies, and the family lived in the wealthy suburb of Mountain Brook. Percy went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began medical studies at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University in New York City. He contracted tuberculosis while an intern at Bellevue Hospital, which led to him abandon medicine as a career. Percy moved to New Orleans, married and began writing essays and fiction. Percy’s most famous novel was “The Moviegoer,” which was published in 1961 and won the prestigious National Book Award the following year.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Walker Percy and his wife, Mary, converted to Roman Catholicism when they moved to New Orleans in the late 1940s, and he wrote essays on religious philosophy, such as “Why Are You a Catholic?” (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Rhoda K. Faust, Maple Street Book Shop, New Orleans)
Portrait of Walker Percy, 1987. (Aspen Institute, Wikipedia)
Portrait of Walker Percy (Bern and Franke Keating Collection, Southern Media Archive, Archives and Special Collections, University of Mississippi Library, Oxford)
LeRoy Percy (1860-1929) was a powerful Mississippi lawyer and plantation owner who served in the U.S. Senate from 1911-13. He was well connected with the Carnegie and Rockefeller families, the major industrial powers at the time. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Library of Congress)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.