Matthew J. Perry: The Man, His Times, and His Legacy chronicles the life and accomplishments of the attorney who led the struggle for desegregation in South Carolina, served as a primary legal advocate in the national civil rights movement, and became South Carolina's first African American U.S. District Court judge. In this volume, scholars of the civil rights era, fellow civil rights activists, jurists, attorneys, a governor, and an award-winning photojournalist join together to produce a multilayered biography of Matthew J. Perry. Collectively they bring to light the remarkable achievements of a man well known in his home state but sometimes obscured on the national stage by the shadows of Thurgood Marshall, J. Waties Waring, and Charles Hamilton Houston. This volume tells the story of Perry's life, including his humble beginnings in Columbia, his service to the nation during wartime, his remarkable career as a creator of positive social change, and, finally, his achievements as a respected member of the federal judiciary. The contributors describe Perry's courage, skills as an orator, quick legal mind, and genteel nature.
They set his story in the turbulent civil-rights-era South, revealing how broad social, historical, and legal issues affected Perry's life and shaped the trajectory of his activist and professional life. The volume underscores how Perry enabled his home state to escape from Jim Crow's clutches with much less turmoil than many of its neighbors. Published in concert with the dedication of the Matthew J. Perry, Jr. United States Courthouse in Columbia, South Carolina, this life story portrays an esteemed juror whose grace and resiliency led South Carolina into the twentieth century.
If the civil rights struggle were a war, Matthew Perry would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He wasn't a billable hours lawyer. He wasn't even a trial lawyer that got paid when he won. He was a trial lawyer who seldom got compensated, was ridiculed, insulted, abused, and jailed for what the legal profession takes for granted. But he persisted and won. Leading the struggle, working around the clock with warmth, dignity, and good humor, he now presides with experienced judgment. - The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings, U.S. Senate