Me and my biological families

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The focus here is on planters, that is, owners of plantations (whether worked by slaves or serfs or sharecroppers), a category including most of our founding fathers, and all two-term presidents before Lincoln except both Adams



Here you'll find genealogy, wills, obituaries, pictures, books, poetry, speeches, letters, memoirs, and diaries of Percys (including three female novelists), Dents, Minors, Armstrongs, Popes, and (the only non-planters) Yarboroughs.

Also here are my own memoirs, three screenplays about my Uncle Will (William Alexander Percy) and his imaginary dialogues with other American Uranians, a.k.a. Calamites (poets of boy-love).

Armstrongs General James "Trooper" Armstrong, hero of the War of 1812, sired William Armstrong, a rich Indian Agent, whose daughter Nanam one of the three in this painting, married William Armstrong Percy I, for whom I am named.
3ArmstrongSisters2.jpg





Dents That surname is largely associated with the states of Maryland, specifically Charles County and St. Mary's County, and Virginia in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Prior to its appearance in America, it was a surname associated with Yorkshire, Northern England. The name has a very rich and impressive history and generation after generation produced some exceptional individuals. The family seemed to have been blessed with a constant supply of male Dents which carried their name throughout English and American history. In due course, the Dents would become stellar contributors to the political and public office realm in early American history.

Minors My mother Anne Minor Dent was raised by her widowed uncle, the distinguished Memphis lawyer Dent Minor, scion of 17th-century settlers of those names in Maryland and Virginia.

Having arrived from Holland in Virginia before 1650, Doods called his son Minor, which became the surname of the family that often intermarried with the Dents. They have had a member on the faculty ever since Thimas Jefferson founded the University of Virgina. One of my mother's great-uncles, John B. Minor, taught law at the University from 1845 to 1895, serving for decades as dean of its law school, and for whom the building housing the school was named. Another great uncle, James Longstreet, served as second in command of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, and, who, after he became a scalawag, was appointed by his cousin-in-law President Ulysses S. Grant to be head of U.S. Customs in New Orleans and ambassador to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul.

Percys Bertram Wyatt-Brown's 1994 The House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern American Family(Oxford University Press) sums up my family as well as I can:

The novels of Walker Percy, The Moviegoer, Lancelot, The Second Coming, and The Thanatos Syndrome to name a few, have left a permanent mark on 20th-century Southern fiction; yet the history of the Percy family in America matches anything, perhaps, that he could have created. Two centuries of wealth, literary accomplishment, political leadership, depression, and sometimes suicide established a fascinating legacy that lies behind Walker Percy's acclaimed prose and profound insight into the human condition.

In The House of Percy, Bertram Wyatt-Brown masterfully interprets the life of this gifted family, drawing out the twin themes of an inherited inclination to despondency and an abiding sense of honor. The Percy family roots in Mississippi and Louisiana reach back to "Don Carlos" Percy, an eighteenth-century soldier of fortune who amassed a large estate but fell victim to mental disorder and suicide.

Wyatt-Brown traces the Percys through the slaveholding heyday of antebellum Natchez, the ravages of the Civil War (which produced the heroic Colonel William Alexander Percy, the "Gray Eagle"), and a return to prominence in the Mississippi Delta after Reconstruction. In addition, the author recovers the tragic lives and literary achievements of several Percy-related women, including Sarah Dorsey, a popular post-Civil War novelist who horrified her relatives by befriending Jefferson Davis, a married man - and bequeathing to him her plantation home, Beauvoir, along with her entire fortune.

Wyatt-Brown then chronicles the life of Senator LeRoy Percy, whose climactic re-election loss in 1911 to a racist demagogue deeply stung the family pride, but inspired his bold defiance to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The author then tells the poignant story of poet and war hero Will Percy, the Senator's son.

The weight of this family narrative found expression in Will Percy's classic memoir, Lanterns on the Levee and in the works of Walker Percy, who was reared in his cousin Will's Greenville home after the suicidal death of Walker's father and his mother's drowning.

As the biography of a powerful dynasty, steeped in Southern traditions and claims to kinship with English nobility, The House of Percy shows how in this lineage were combined legend, depression, and grand achievement, and how melancholy itself may lead to inspiring results. Written by a leading scholar of the South, it weaves together intensive research and thoughtful insights into a riveting, unforgettable story.

Popes I think it likely that Thomas George Percy and John Walker were lovers. They first met as undergraduates at Princeton, both class of '06, and proceeded to arrange their lives to ensure ongoing physical proximity, among other things marrying sisters, daughters of a powerful Huntsville resident, LeRoy Pope, who claimed kinship with Alexander Pope. (LeRoy Pope's mansion recently renovated, is on the market for $16 million). They also named their children after each other and their mutual father-in-law -- the origin, in the Percy line, of the frequent appearance of the names Walker and LeRoy. One of Thomas George's sons, LeRoy Pope Percy, a non-practicing physician, lived his entire life in the household of his brother, William Alexander, my great-grandfather the Gray Eagle. Known as "Uncle Lee," LeRoy Pope was said to have "sad eyes." He never married, may have been sexually inclined to males, and committed suicide at Hot Springs in 1882 with an overdose of laudanum.

Yarboroughs Scandal practically was their middle name. They didn't much mind; hardheaded types, they simply went on with their lives as cheerfully as possible. But to the Minors and the Dents, rotten branches evoked true horror. For centuries they had seen themselves as conscientious arborists, custodians of lineages so suited to reciprocal graftings that whenever one came across the name Minor, Dent often appeared in close proximity. Indeed, the trees practically had merged, to the extent that a tainted branch suggested general infirmity, or even the perils of interbreeding. Hence the need for vigilant scandal management. Nothing less than the greatness of future generations was at stake.

Who I am

I am the scion of Southern families that produced William Alexander Percy, whose classic Lanterns on the Levee (1941) became a bestseller; Walker Percy, winner of the National Book Award in 1962 and Jefferson Lecturer in 1989; and Henry Longstreet Minor (A History of the Democratic Party, Macmillan, 1928), as well as numerous 19th-century writers.

After graduating as valedictorian from Middlesex School in 1951 and enrolling in the Special Program in the Humanities at Princeton, I served in the US Army from 1953 to 1956, during which I was loaned to the CIA. With a BA from the University of Tennessee, I got an MA at Cornell, a certificato at Naples, and a PhD from Princeton in 1964.

But I am also things socially deemed utterly disreputable ?€? queer, sodomite, and aficionado of 'public sex' and bathhouses. My sponsorship of the first forum against the Vietnam war in the Deep South, at Louisiana State, Baton Rouge in 1966, drove me from my native soil. My sexual escapades in demimondes meant that my career was a moment away from destruction.

The material here reflects my origins, interests, and transforming passages through a number of radically different cliques or circles ?€? from Southern aristocratic to New England Brahmin, to intellectual to bohemianand down-and-out radical. Briefly, after LBJ's war crimes, I became a Republican and urban pioneer in Boston's Sourh End. These successive 'gangs' associated with these changes have defined my real education.


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