Rufus McCain

The Time Jonathan Potter Met Walker Percy

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Jonathan Potter, a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, made his way to Covington. He had written Walker twice, with the hope of being able to talk to him, but had received no reply. When he arrived by bus, thick fog and rain enveloped the town. Undaunted, he walked the streets, imagining he was Helen Keller in search of Annie Sullivan. By chance he spotted the Kumquat, where Sheena Dooly told him that Walker was not well but still signed books on request. When he arrived at the bookstore the next day, Sheena said she had just spoken to Walker, who was coming to town for a dental appointment and would stop by. Potter waited and waited and decided Walker would not come. Disheartened, he walked to the filling station to wait for the bus. Suddenly a pickup pulled over and a figure inside asked, “Is this where the bus comes?” Potter went over and introduced himself.

“Well, let me park over here and we’ll go inside. Did you get my letter?” Walker asked.

“No, I must have missed it.’

“I have to apologize for my bad behavior.”

“Oh no, not at all.”

“This old cancer cropped up a while ago. Would you like a grape NeHi?”


Percy reached into his pocket and then inserted several coins into an old soda pop machine removing two cold bottles of grape NeHi. Potter drank thirstily while Percy held his bottle without drinking.

“I anoint you my successor.”


From Walker Percy: A Life by Patrick Samway, SJ; edited by Jonathan Webb