Congressman Clyburn Realizes Dream of Honoring Matthew Perry

Apr 21, 2004

(Columbia, SC) - On October 14, 1994, President Clinton signed Public Law #103-360, designating the yet-to-be-constructed federal courthouse in Columbia, honor of Judge Matthew J. Perry, Jr.  That law was the first piece of legislation Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC) introduced after being elected to Congress in 1992.

Matthew J. Perry, Jr. was born into segregation not far from the Courthouse that now bears his name.  He went on to become South Carolina's pre-eminent civil rights attorney, which led to his appointment as the first African American federal judge from the Deep Southand the first African American federal district judge in South Carolina.    

"Matthew Perry is a humble man who would never seek recognition for his extraordinary contributions to civil rights, the legal profession, South Carolina, and our nation," Congressman Clyburn said.  "But I knew that given the opportunity, I would insure that his legacy would be preserved in an enduring way so future generations could learn from this great man just as I have. As the first African American elected to Congress from South Carolinasince Reconstruction, I was granted that opportunity and fought doggedly to have this federal courthouse named in his honor." 

When Congressman Clyburn introduced the legislation in 1993, then South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond objected because he and others wanted the new facility to bear his name.  Some called the freshman Congressman foolhardy for going against the senior Senator's wishes, but his tenacity paid off and the late Senator Thurmond agreed to support Congressman Clyburn's bill. 

On Friday, April 23, 2004at 2:30 p.m., Congressman Clyburn will join Judge Matthew Perry and judges, lawyers and friends from across the country in Columbiato dedicate the Matthew J. Perry Jr. United States Courthouse. 

"This dedication will be one of the proudest moments in my career," Congressman Clyburn continued.  "It represents the culmination of a long, hard road, but one that I relish because it was a labor of love."

In addition to securing most of the federal money to construct the Courthouse, Congressman Clyburn has also been instrumental in raising private contributions to pay for the statue, portrait and wrought iron grate that will serve as tangible tributes to Matthew Perry on the grounds of the courthouse where he currently serves as senior federal judge. 

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