PERRY: A fatherly figure you cant even explain
For many, Matthew Perry was a passing kindness, a gentle smile, a beautiful voice.
Eulogized Thursday as a man with a thorough command of the law, Perrys funeral nonetheless attracted many who knew him more by reputation and wanted to show the respect he deserved as a famous civil rights lawyer and, later, a judge.
Their goodwill filled the sanctuary.
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Andre Lewis of Columbia said he introduced himself to Perry once in a chance meeting. I encountered him at an airport in New York, and he didnt know who I was but I knew who he was, Lewis said. He was approachable.
It was his smile, a genuine smile.
Saundra Glover said she felt indebted to Perry.
A University of South Carolina professor in the school of public health, she said: I really dont feel Id be in that position now if it had not been for his efforts.
Glover saw the judge from time to time in the presidents box at S.C. State football games, cheering for his alma mater, just like the rest of us. He seemed so comfortable, she said, so relaxed. He was such a humble person.
Billie Pharr respected Perrys reputation as a civil rights leader who believed in nonviolence. When he met Perry, he was reminded of the statue that portrays him in front of the federal courthouse, children at his side. Compassion, Pharr said. A type of sternness thats needed. Love, warmth, leadership and a fatherly figure you cant even explain.
Evelyn Cunningham, backed by a 50-person choir joining singers from Zion Baptist and Brookland Baptist churches, brought the sanctuary to its feet with a song titled simply, God Is.
But Cunningham said she remembers the first time she heard Perry singing at church; she felt as if shed discovered a secret.
He had a beautiful voice, she said admiringly.
Clara Bacote Robinson, first cousin to Perrys widow, said the family teasingly called Perry The Voice. She remembered Perry traveling to Timmonsville in the 1940s to court her cousin Hallie. We always knew he was special.
Isaac Brown Jr. said his late father knew Perry, and their paths crossed from time to time. If you were out somewhere and youd see him, he was kind and nice. Hed speak to you, shake your hand, said Brown, who works in food service at Fort Jackson. Im off today, so I wanted to pay my respects.
Annette Folks and Althea Giddens had brushes with Perry through their jobs at the advocacy center at the University of South Carolina.
Folks said she was probably 13 when her parents divorced. Her mother hired Perry to represent her, but then couldnt cover the bill. Perry allowed her to pay in monthly installments. He was easy talking, Folks said, a soft-spoken man.
Elaine Cooper said she grew up in Chicago hearing about Perry, the lawyer who stood up for student protesters.
Great, great, great man, she said. Hes done so much for all human beings, for all the United States.
Mattie Anderson-Roberson said she dropped everything to come and pay her respects to a man she first met in the early 1960s as a student at South Carolina State.
She was among hundreds of young people who walked the picket lines in Orangeburg, hoping to end the segregation that prevented them from even taking a seat at a dime-store lunch counter.
She remembered once being swept up, arrested and put in a pen, where a sheriff with a shotgun watched over the young black students.
It was Perry who came and bailed them out, Anderson-Roberson said.
Nothing compares to the people who impact you in your youth.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641 and Click at 771-8386.