Community remembers leader

Published 12:14 am Monday, August 17, 2015

VIDALIA — To some, the idea of a Southern gentleman is a fictitious one, meant for books and movies.

But for those who knew Percy Rountree Jr., it was real.

“He was just a real gentleman,” Bill McDonough, Rountree’s longtime neighbor, said. “Period.”

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Rountree, veteran, newspaperman, agriculture man and alderman, passed away Friday at the age of 94.

Rountree was born in Vidalia to Emma Lou Garland Rountree and Percy Langworthy Rountree Sr.

Rountree’s mother was a teacher in the area. Corinne Randazzo said she was her teacher during the fifth and sixth grades at Vidalia High School.

“Every family knew everybody,” Randazzo said.

Like McDonough, Randazzo remembers Rountree as a true gentleman.

“He loved people,” Randazzo said. “He loved the area, Concordia Parish, and especially Vidalia.”

Rountree’s father owned The Concordia Sentinel, which had been passed down from his grandfather, the newspaper’s founder. When Rountree decided to go to Louisiana State University for journalism, it appeared he would follow in their footsteps.

However, while attending LSU, Rountree also joined ROTC, working his way up to cadet battalion commander.

It was good experience for when he enlisted in the Air Force to serve in World War II. McDonough said Rountree originally wanted to join the Army, but there was one small problem.

“You could not be an army officer unless you were 21,” McDonough said.

Rountree was 20 at the time, and enlisted instead in the Air Force. It was during his training he married his wife, Jean Marron Rountree.

Randazzo said she “was very much a lady.”

“They complemented each other,” Randazzo said.

Rountree went on to serve his country for five years, retiring at the rank of major, but continuing to serve in the reserves for 20 more years.

After his service, he returned home to head up The Concordia Sentinel. It was there Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland met him.

“I used to sell The Concordia Sentinel when I was 12 and 13 years old,” Copeland said.

Rountree later sold the paper to the Hanna family. Sam Hanna Jr. released a statement on behalf of the Hanna family and the staff at The Concordia Sentinel after his passing.

“Mr. Percy Rountree was a gentleman in every sense of the word. Always pleasant and always upbeat and positive about life in general, Mr. Rountree devoted much of his time and efforts to the growth and prosperity of Concordia Parish,” Hanna wrote. “He recognized long ago that Concordia’s prospects to realize its potential were centered in Vidalia, and without a doubt he worked diligently throughout his life to help make it happen.  We will miss him, as we are certain his friends and family will miss him as well. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rountree family.”

Rountree retired from the newspaper business in 1965 and was elected to the Vidalia board of alderman in 1968, serving a total of 20 years.

While Rountree was in office, Vidalia made many public works improvements. Copeland said Rountree was against selling the city’s utilities to Entergy, a decision which influenced the city’s future.

“It’s one of our main sources of revenue in Vidalia,” Copeland said, referring to the city-owned utilities.

Rountree was also very much into agriculture, and enjoyed buying and selling land, as well as managing livestock.

“He loved cattle, loved riding horses,” McDonough said.

Randazzo also said he was President of the Parish Council at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Vidalia for a number of years, and managed the land the church owned.

With his passing Friday, Vidalia lost a true gentleman.

“It’s an honor and privilege to know him and my thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” Copeland said.

Rountree’s funeral will be 11 a.m. today at Natchez City Cemetery with the Rev. Walton Jones officiating.