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Civil Rights History Project Interview

Hon. Matthew J. Perry, Jr.

The Hon. Matthew J. Perry, Jr., 1921-2011, was interviewed on June 7, 2011 for the Civil Rights History Project. Judge Perry became a U.S. District Court judge in 1979, nominated by President Jimmy Carter. He held that position until his death in July 2011, a few days short of his ninetieth birthday.

As a young attorney for the South Carolina NAACP, Judge Perry overturned convictions of more than 7,000 people involved in sit-in demonstrations. Perry argued significant civil rights cases, including two before the U. S. Supreme Court. Peterson v. City of Greenville ended all state laws requiring segregated restaurants. Edwards v. SC held that peaceful public demonstrations on State House grounds were permissible. Another case desegregated higher education in South Carolina.

Here is an excerpt from Perry's interview, in which he discusses his first case as a young lawyer up against a racist judge.

More Excerpts from the Civil Rights History Project

Please watch more excerpts from the interview on our Youtube channel:

Perry as the attorney for Sarah Fleming, whose SC case preceded the Rosa Park case.

Perry as a World War II soldier who encountered segregation in a public facility where Italian POWs were treated as special guests, while Perry was treated as a second-class citizen.