Greenville boasts “more published writers per capita” than any other town in the nation. Shelby Foote, historian, novelist and narrator/writer of PBS’s widely acclaimed Civil War series was born here. Poet and biographer William Alexander Percy, novelists Walker Percy, Ellen Douglas and Beverly Lowry and PBS commentator Hodding Carter III also grew up here. William Faulkner was a frequent visitor (and occasional resident) when another Greenville author, Ben Wasson, served as the Nobel Prize winner’s literary agent. Hodding Carter won the Pulitzer Prize as Editor of Greenville’s Delta Democrat Times. Bern Keating is Greenville’s most prolific penman with more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles in publications ranging from National Geographic to Playboy. The Percy Library Writers’ Exhibit is open to the public and contain artifacts chronicling our rich literary heritage. You have read their great works, now see the places that inspired them.
The park was established by Alice Bell Garden Club in 1946 and features the first arboretum registered in Washington County. The courtyard with its raised landscaped bed is an esthetic, secluded respite with benches, birdhouses, and butterflies. The Greenville Writer’s Garden features garden quotes from authors, such as William Alexander Percy, a premier writer of Greenville.
There is a treasure in Greenville that is a well-known secret. Well-known because it is in plain view in a public place. Enter the main gates of Greenville Cemetery and follow the road (narrow for a car but ample for a carriage). Look ahead, slightly to the right, beyond handsome weathered tombstones and assorted shrubs. In a moment your eyes stop at a tall bank of hollies, their dark greens framing a paler gray rectangle. Turn right, onto the road that runs before this place and realize a figure stands before the solid expanse. It is a man, greater than life-size; a knight in full armor, sword in hand. A bronze crusader whose journey is ended, standing sentry against stone finer than the crusty cast concrete pillars or sandblasted marble announcing finished lifetimes. Rays of the setting sun inscribed above his shoulders. At his feet, The River, expressed in undulating chiseled lines, timeless rippling wavelets. Walk behind the setting sun, past the bronze-capped graves, the moss-speckled obelisk sand crepe myrtles.
Look up at the granite stele and read the words a son chose for tribute
to his father:
They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore thee? Better men fared thus before thee;
Fired their ringing shot and passed, Hotly charged – and sank at last.
Charge once more, then, and be dumb! Let the victors, when they come,
When the forts of folly fall, Find thy body by the wall!
Greenville’s extraordinary literary tradition has shaped more writers than any town of its size in the country. In the 20th century, more than 100 published writers called Greenville home. The Writers’ Exhibit houses original manuscripts and documents the accomplishments of Shelby Foote to Walker Percy.