Clyburn Reacts to Matthew Perry's Passing

Aug 1, 2011 Issues: Congressional Issues

(Washington, DC) – Sixth District Congressman and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn today released the following statement in reaction to the passing of Judge Matthew Perry:

“America has lost one of its greatest legal minds and a stalwart of the civil rights movement.  I have lost a mentor and a dear friend. 

“I have known Matthew Perry most of life.  I was just a teenager when my mother first took me to watch him defend the NAACP in a Sumter courtroom.  In her words, she wanted me to see what I could be when I grew up.  He electrified the courtroom and although he lost that case, and many others during the civil rights movement, he won the hearts and minds of all who witnessed him in action and every one of those civil rights cases on appeal.

“Our paths crossed again when he chose me for his star witness in the March 1960 Orangeburg case in which 388 student protestors were arrested for breaching the peace.  After that, I did my student teaching in a Spartanburg school across the street from Matthew Perry’s law office.  I often visited with him and we spent hours talking, and became fast friends.  I learned so much from his tutelage and sought to emulate this larger than life figure.

“When I was elected to Congress, I was ceremoniously sworn in by him and my first real successful legislation was an act to name the federal courthouse in Columbia after Matthew Perry.  It still remains one of my proudest moments in public service. 

“His spirit was passionate but understated, and his demeanor was judicious both inside and outside the courtroom.  We have lost a legend in Matthew Perry, but his influence continues to live on in so many of us whose lives he changed forever.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Hallie and their family members at this very difficult time.”