Walker Percy was arguably one of St. Tammany Parish's most famous residents, but up until now there were few public tributes to the prize-winning author or his work.
On Thursday, in advance of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the author's birth, the daughters of Percy, best known for his 1961 novel The Moviegoer, were on hand as a life-sized statue of the author was unveiled at the Madisonville public library.
Percy lived in Covington from 1948 until his death in 1990.
The Walker Percy Serenity Circle and statue at the Madisonville Branch Library on Main Street was commissioned by the St. Tammany Library Foundation. The bronze statue, by Covington artist Bill Binnings, was underwritten by the Helis Foundation.
It features a likeness of the author, seated on a bench next to his dog, "Sweet Thing." The circle is set under live oak trees in front of the library, located a block from the Tchefuncte River. Several benches grace the garden; one of which was donated by Percy’s daughter Anne and her family.
“The Walker Percy Serenity Circle will provide local residents and tourists an opportunity to learn about Percy’s life, literary works, awards, and accomplishments for generations to come,” said Ann Shaw, president of the St. Tammany Library Foundation.
Percy’s daughters, Mary Pratt Lobdell and Anne Moores, were joined at the ceremony by retired Madisonville Mayor Peter Gitz, St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister and retired Judge Frederick Stephen Ellis, a longtime friend of the author.
Born May 28, 1916 in Birmingham, Percy lived in Covington for four decades. He is buried in the cemetery at St. Joseph Abbey and a historical marker on Boston Street points out the Covington chapter of his literary life.
Widely considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Percy wrote extensively while living in Covington. His first book is also his best known: The Moviegoer. It won the National Book Award for fiction in 1961. Time magazine called the novel “one of the best English language books published since 1923.” Other works Percy wrote while living in Covington include Lancelot, The Second Coming, Love in the Ruins, The Thanatos Syndrome and The Last Gentleman.
All six books are commemorated in the library’s Serenity Circle with mention of some of the awards each garnered for the author.
Percy also played a key role in having John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Confederacy of Dunces published, after the author’s mother, Thelma Toole doggedly pursued Percy’s advice and support for its publication. Percy referred it to LSU Press, which published the book to national acclaim.