Found in the Cosmos: News of the Center

Billups Phinzy Percy, Walker Percy's Youngest Brother, Dies

We at The Walker Percy Center are saddened to hear of the death of Billups Phinzy Percy (called "Phin" by his family and friends) at the age of 91. He died January 18, 2013, following a brief illness with his family at his side.

Percy was born January 3, 1922 in Birmingham, Alabama, the youngest of three sons of Leroy Pratt and Martha Susan Phinizy Percy. He moved to Greenville, Mississippi at age 7 following the death of his father. Following his mother's death two years later, he and his brothers were adopted by their cousin, the poet and writer William Alexander Percy.

Mr. Percy was the grandson of U.S. Senator LeRoy Percy and great grandson of Colonel William Alexander Percy, a Civil War hero known as "Gray Eagle of the Delta". Mr. Percy served as an officer in the U. S. Navy during World War II, having graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1942. He served as the captain of a PT boat during the Solomon Islands campaign and later served aboard a submarine which completed three successful combat patrols in Japanese Empire waters. Mr. Percy was awarded the Silver Star Medal and the Bronze Star Medal (with "V"). While in the South Pacific he served for a time with the squad which included PT 109. He was on PT 162 on the fateful night when a youthful John F. Kennedy's boat was shipwrecked. Mr. Percy and Kennedy, who were wartime buddies, remained in touch until career choices separated their pathways. Mr. Percy often referred to this period of his life with special enthusiasm as the perils of war took him into the South China and Yellow Seas aboard the submarine Sea Robin under Lieutenant Commander Paul C. Stimson.

After war's end and a tour in the Canal Zone, Mr. Percy continued his education with courses at The University of the South. He went on to law school at the University of Virginia, where his father, uncle and grandfather had studied. Following law school, a friend's introduction to a vivacious Manhattan publishing executive, Jaye Dobbs, set Percy's new course. After a courtship that included World Series games at Yankee Stadium, they were married and toured Europe. They settled in New Orleans where Mr. Percy joined the law faculty at Tulane and taught Constitutional Law for over 30 years. The Percys were lifelong members of Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans.

Mr. Percy served with distinction on the Board of the Milne Home School for Boys, United Way, New Orleans Chapter, Children's Bureau and Metropolitan Crime Commission. Phin was preceded in death by his beloved bride of 51 years, "Jaye Bird" (2004), their infant daughter, Belinda Pratt Percy (1958), his parents, his adoptive father and his two brothers, LeRoy Percy (2004), community leader and businessman from Greenville, Mississippi and Walker Percy (1990), celebrated Southern novelist from Covington, Louisiana.

He is survived by four children; William Alexander Percy, III of New Orleans, Camille Alexandra Percy Raulston of Covington, Melissa Phinizy Percy Spalding of Atlanta, and Billups Phinizy Percy, Jr. of New Orleans; and four grandchildren: Phinizy Percy Spalding, Camille Alexandra Spalding, Emily Jaye Raulston and William Percy Raulston. The family expresses deep appreciation to Christwood Skilled Nursing staff and Canon Hospice of Covington for the loving care they rendered in Mr. Percy's behalf.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS:

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Funeral Service at LAKE LAWN METAIRIE FUNERAL HOME, 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd. (in Metairie Cemetery) on Friday, January 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM. Visitation will begin at 9:00 AM.
The Very Reverend Sam Candler from Atlanta will be officiating. In lieu of flowers donations requested to Trinity Church Perpetual Memorial Fund,
1329 Jackson Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130. To view and sign the family guestbook, please visit lakelawnmetairie.com.

Walker Percy Center remembers Percy scholar, Bertram-Wyatt Brown

We at The Walker Percy Center are saddened to hear of the death of Bertram Wyatt-Brown. He died at the age of 80 of pulmonary fibrosis on November 5, 2012. His is survived by his wife of 50 years, Anne, along with a daughter, Natalie Ingraham Wyatt-Brown of St. Paul, Minn.

As it turned out, Bertram Wyatt-Brown and his wife could not make it to the Walker Percy Center's first conference in October of 2011, but he had picked out a topic in case they could: "The Percy Sense of Humor: Will and Walker." We appreciated the warm support he expressed for the WPC and regret not having had the opportunity to meet him and his wife Anne.

Historian David Herbert Donald once noted that Wyatt-Brown "has studied Southerners much as an anthropologist would an aboriginal tribe."

Among the books Bertram Wyatt-Brown wrote are these two on the Percy family:

The House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family: "In The House of Percy, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, a leading scholar of the South, skillfully combines intensive research and telling insights to produce the unforgettable story of this gifted family. The history begins with their first prominent ancestor, Don Carlos Percy, an eighteenth-century soldier of fortune who amassed a large estate only to fall victim to mental disorder and suicide, and concludes with poet and war hero Will Percy who shared his home with Walker and his brothers after the suicidal death of their father and their mother's drowning. In between, the author recovers the tragic lives and literary achievements of several Percy-related women, and chronicles the fiery life of Senator LeRoy Percy who defied the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. Throughout his biography of this powerful dynasty, Wyatt-Brown draws out the twin themes of an inherited inclination to despondency and an abiding sense of honor." (from Abebooks)

The Literary Percys: Family History, Gender, and the Southern Imagination: "The Percys, one of the most distinguished families in the South, are notable not only for their prominence in the political and economic development of the Mississippi Delta but also for their literary creativity. In The Literary Percys, noted historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown examines the role of gender and family history in the writings of this exceptional lineage." (from Abebooks)

The Walker Percy Center mourns Mary "Bunt" Percy (September 12, 1921 - September 6, 2012)

Mary Townsend Percy, the widow of Walker Percy, died Thursday, September 6, 2012 at her Covington home. She was 90. The Percys were married in New Orleans in 1946, and they settled in Covington in 1948. Walker Percy, who wrote six novels and two books of essays and won the National Book Award for “The Moviegoer,” died in May 1990.

Mrs. Percy, a native of Doddsville, Miss., was known to everyone as Bunt. She acquired that nickname in childhood from her father’s farm workers, who referred to her as Little Bunt and then Bunt, said Mary Pratt Lobdell, one of her daughters.

She enrolled at Millsaps College in Jackson, where she trained to become a laboratory technologist.

She was working at a clinic in Greenville, Miss., when she met Percy. They dated seven years before marrying in 1946, Lobdell said.

Survivors include two daughters, Mary Pratt Lobdell of Covington and Ann Percy Moores of Houston; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.