Award-winning Texas author commits suicide
On this day in 1956, author George Sessions Perry drowned himself. Perry was born in 1910 in Rockdale, Texas. Orphaned at twelve, he was reared by his maternal grandmother, an autocratic and irascible woman who was the model for a major character in his prize-winning novel, Hold Autumn in Your Hand, and the title figure of his later book My Granny Van. Rockdale and the surrounding area furnished the setting for nearly all of his fiction. During the 1930s Perry wrote six novels and more than fifty short stories about rural and small-town Texas. In 1941 he firmly established his place on the Texas literary scene with Hold Autumn in Your Hand, perhaps the best agrarian novel about Texas. The book won the Texas Institute of Letters award in 1941 and, in 1942, became the first Texas book to win the National Book Award. Perry became a war correspondent during World War II and volunteered to go ashore on the Sicily landings in 1943. The death and suffering he witnessed there made such a searing impression on him that he later said it "defictionized" him for life. After the war he devoted himself to nonfiction and journalism. His unpublished writings in the early 1950s reflect his deepening depression and his worry about his severe arthritis and his drinking problems. In 1956, in great pain and tortured by hallucinations, Perry walked into the river near his Guilford, Connecticut, home and disappeared; his body was found two months later.