THE DELTA 335 provide much-needed diversification to the state’s economy and would boost jobs at a time when agricultural labor was being hemorrhaged. For the state and some businesses, the deal of BAWI was too good to resist. Over the next several decades, new businesses took advantage of BAWI and moved to the Delta. Baxter Laboratories, a medical equipment company, made its way to Cleveland in 1949. The 1953 opening of the Alexander Smith Carpet Company in Greenville was another notch in the belt of BAWI. The Humphreys County town of Belzoni also attracted a facility for making broom handles, as well as a soybean-processing plant. Just over the hills in Grenada, a new factory promised to bring jobs and potentially employ workers from nearby Delta towns such as Ruleville and Drew. While the Delta’s economic, political, and social structure still hinged upon agriculture in the 1950s and beyond, the New Deal and BAWI had successfully laid the foundation for a changing Delta in the decades to follow. After a decade of depression, World War II also made its mark on the region. The bombing of Pearl Harbor resulted in full-scale mobilization of American military and economic resources. The march to war ended the Great Depression and set the table for a variety of economic and social changes. A new air base in Greenville provided a host of new jobs in the region. Whites and African Americans volunteered for or were drafted into the Armed Forces in large numbers, which affected a tenuous labor situation in the Delta. The already declining agricultural labor force and the considerable loss of men to military service created a worrisome labor shortage for planters. Cheap, plentiful labor, which had been the historical backbone of the Delta economy, was harder to find during World War II. African American farm workers discovered a greater deal of bargaining power and leverage during the labor shortages of the war years: A smaller pool of workers allowed African WALKER PERCY An author, physician, and lifelong scholar, Walker Percy was born May 28, 1916, and spent much of his childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, although family struggles later led him to Mississippi. Left an orphaned teenager by several tragic events, Walker— along with his younger brothers LeRoy and Phinizy—were sent to live with their father’s cousin, renowned writer and attorney William Alexander Percy, whom the young Percy brothers called “Uncle Will,” in Greenville. William Alexander’s father, wealthy planter LeRoy Percy, represented Mississippi in the United States Senate from 1910 to 1913. William Alexander Percy’s book Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter’s Son, an autobiography that deals with struggles in the Delta region during the Great Flood of 1927, was published in 1941 and became a bestseller. Walker’s writing was influenced strongly by his cousin, as well as other Greenville intellectuals like his friend Shelby Foote. Walker left Greenville in 1934 to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied chemistry. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Walker attended medical school at Columbia University in New York City and earned his medical degree in 1941. He then remained in New York to work as a pathologist but within a year, contracted tuberculosis. Walker spent several years in a New York sanatorium for treatment, where he used his newfound spare time to study the works of existentialist philosophers such as Jean-Paul Satre and Soren Kierkegaard. Walker wrote of this transition from medicine to writing in 1966: ‘’What began to interest me was not the physiological and pathological processes within man’s body but the problem of man himself, the nature and destiny of man; specifically and more immediately, the predicament of man in a modern technological society.’’ Percy’s most widely recognized work, The Moviegoer, was published in 1961 and received a National Book Award for fiction that year. His work Love in the Ruins received the National Catholic Book Award in 1972. In addition to his six published novels, Percy wrote numerous philosophical essays exploring the roots of human existence and behavior, particularly in the Deep South. Walker Percy wrote for more than thirty years before passing away in Covington, Louisiana, on May 10, 1990, shortly before his seventy-fifth birthday. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILLIAM ALEXANDER PERCY MEMORIAL LIBRARY