Students studying outside the library

District Court Judge Perry to speak Thursday at Wofford

January 23, 2006

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina Matthew J. Perry Jr. will be on Wofford College’s campus on Thursday (Jan. 26) to speak to a January Interim class studying “King to King: Racial Unrest in America.” The program is free and open to the public. It will be held at 11 a.m. in the Olin Teaching Theater.

For more than a half century, Perry has brought leadership to South Carolina as a practicing attorney, civil rights leader and for the past 25 years as a judge of the federal courts. A native of Columbia, S.C. Perry gained prominence as the state NAACP’s attorney during the period of civil rights activism in the 1950s and 1960s, representing the organization and individuals in many of the landmark cases of that time, including the desegregation of Clemson University by Harvey Gantt in 1963.

In 1975, Perry was appointed by President Gerald Ford with the unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, becoming the first African-American from South Carolina to be named to the federal bench, and four years later, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter – again with unanimous confirmation of the Senate – as a U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina. He took senior judge status in 1995.

Perry holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and bachelor of laws degree from S.C. State College (now university).

The “King to King” Interim course is investigating two eras symbolized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rodney King, exploring the events and racial tensions that fueled the Civil Rights movement led by MLK in the 1960s and contrasting those with the contemporary racial struggles exemplified by the L.A. riots that erupted after police beat Rodney King in 1991. Students in the course have heard from local, state and national figures involved in civil rights activism, including Congressman James Clyburn, former U.S. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former Spartanburg Rep. Brenda Lee, along with Albert Gray, Wofford’s first African-American student, and Doug Jones, Wofford’s first African-American graduate.

Interim is a time at Wofford College to provide students and faculty an opportunity for non-traditional learning. Innovation and experiment are the foundation of the Interim, permitting and encouraging students and professors to explore the new and untried, and in doing so, to run risks that could not be justified in the traditional academic semesters. Students are offered a variety of choices for Interim – traveling with faculty members as guides, participating in an off-campus internships, or conducting an independent study project individually or in small groups. All programs have some type of academic component.