William Armstrong Percy III
Occupationprofessor, historian, and gay activist

William Armstrong Percy, III, (born December 10, 1933) is a professor, historian, encyclopedist, and gay activist. His mother Anne Minor Dent was raised by her widowed uncle, the distinguished Memphis lawyer Dent Minor.

After graduating as valedictorian of Middlesex School (in Concord, Massachusetts) in 1951, Percy went on to Princeton University, where he entered the Special Program in the Humanities. There he began to experience the rejection and extreme persecution of gays in those years of McCarthyism. At a time when conscription was still in effect, he volunteered for the U.S. Army. In his military stint, Percy studied Norwegian at the Army Language School and worked as a French interpreter on loan to the Central Intelligence Agency on the island of Saipan.

Following the completion of his military service, Percy received from the University of Tennessee his B.A. in 1957. He then spent a year obtaining a "Certificato" from the University of Naples. He went on to earn a M.A. from Cornell University and an A.M., and in 1964 his Ph.D. from Princeton.

Percy then taught at the University of New Orleans, Louisiana State University, and the University of Missouri at St. Louis for two years each. In 1968 he finally settled at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, where he has been teaching since. After gaining tenure and promotion to full professor, Percy came out to colleagues in 1975. He joined the fight for equal rights for gays in 1982 and began publishing in gay studies three years later.

In 1994, Percy offered a bounty of $10,000 for the successful outing of a living American Cardinal, a sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a four-star officer on active duty in the U.S. military. In light of the Supreme Court decision that decriminalized sodomy (Lawrence v. Texas), he has amended his bounty offer to no longer include a justice of that venerable institution. His offer, upped to $20,000, still stands for Cardinals and four-star officers.


  • The Age of Recovery: The Fifteenth Century (Vol. X, The Development of Western Civilization series), with Jerah Johnson. New York: Cornell University Press, 1970.
  • Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, Ed. Wayne R. Dynes. 2 vols. New York: Garland, 1990.
  • Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence, with Warren Johansson. New York: Haworth Press, 1994.
  • Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece. Campagne/Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996. ISBN 0252022092
  • The Age of Marriage in Ancient Rome, with Arnold Lelis and Beert Verstraete. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003.

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