South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal remembers watching attorney Matthew Perry in the 1960’s in a Richland County courtroom, defending a group of college students who had been arrested for protesting segregation in South Carolina. One of those students was a young James Clyburn (D-SC).
“A hush fell over the courtroom as Matthew Perry spoke his opening words on behalf of the students. He was an imposing figure, tall, slender, conservatively and impeccably dressed, with a deep, rich, melodious voice. His command of the language was a thing of beauty. His command of the law was complete and powerful, ” said Toal.
AUDIO: Listen to Justice Toal’s eulogy, beginning with the story of one of his famous civil rights cases (10:33)
The case was one of a series that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down racial segregation. Perry went on to become the first black federal judge appointed from the South.
He inspired many lawyers and judges, Judge Joe Anderson said in his tribute to his fellow member of the federal bench.
“Anyone looking for the monument to Matthew J. Perry, Jr., need only look around our society at the many changes wrought by the work of this great civil rights leader and jurist. Matthew Perry was a man whose gentle grace and tough resiliency nudged South Carolina into the 20th century, ” Anderson remarked.
AUDIO: Listen to comments of U.S. District Judge Joseph Anderson (6:24)