Le Roy Percy United States Senator from Mississippi from 1911 to 1913, LeRoy Percy (November 9, 1860 - December 24, 1929) was a wealthy planter from Greenville, Mississippi in the heart of the Delta. His father Col William Alexander Percy married Nana Armstrong, Geoge Armstrong Custerâ€™s first cousin and had besides LeRoy, William Armstrong Percy I, grandfather of the historian and gay activist William Armstrong Percy, III and Walker Percy, grandfather of the Catholic essayist and novelist Walker Percy.
Following the vacancy of the seat held by Senator James Gordon, the Mississippi legislature convened to fill it. A plurality of legislators at the time backed white supremacist James K. Vardaman, but the fractured remainder sought to thwart his extreme racial policies. A majority united behind Percy to block Vardaman's appointment. Percy became the last senator chosen by the Mississippi legislature, prior to the adoption of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandating popular election of senators.
Percy held office until 1913. In 1912 he was challenged in the Democratic Primary under the new direct elections system by the populist Vardaman, whose campaign Theodore Bilbo managed, stressing class tensions and racial segregation. The tactic resulted in defeat for Percy, who was attacked as a representative of the aristocracy and for taking a progressive stance on race relations; advocating education for blacks working to improve race relations by appealing to the plantersâ€™ sense of noblesse oblige.
Percy retired from politics to run his model plantation at Trail Lake and to practice law for railroads and banks. British investors hired him to manage the largest cotton plantation in the country, for which he got 10f the profits. In 1922 he rose to national prominence when the Ku Klux Klan attempted to set up in Washington County, Mississippi. On March 1, 1922 the Klan attempted to hold a recruiting session at the Greenville courthouse. Percy arrived there during a speech by Klan leader Joseph Camp attacking blacks, Jews, and Catholics. After Camp finished, Percy approached the podium and proceeded to dismantle Camp's speech to thunderous applause, concluding with the plea "Friends, let this Klan go somewhere else where it will not do the harm that it will in this community. Let them sow dissension in some community less united than is ours."
After Percy stepped down, an ally of his in the audience rose to put forth a resolution, secretly written by Percy, condemning the Klan. The resolution passed and Camp ceased his efforts to establish the Klan in Washington County. Percy's speech and victory drew praise from newspapers around the nation.
Percy was the father of poet William Alexander Percy as well as the great-uncle of author Walker Percy and William Armstrong Percy III.
Leroy Percy State Park, a state park in Mississippi, is named after him.