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SAN FRANCISCO — At its Thurgood Marshall award dinner Saturday in San Franciso, the Individual Rights and Responsibilities section of the American Bar Association paid moving tribute to a civil rights giant who knew and worked with Marshall: Matthew Perry Jr., a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. As a civil rights lawyer Perry, now 86, broke down legal barriers in South Carolina, leading to the integration of the state’s public schools, hospitals and many other institutions. President Gerald Ford appointed him to the military court of appeals in 1975, and in 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Perry to the district court, making him the first African-American lawyer from the Deep South appointed to the federal bench. “The federal judiciary would not be what it is today without Matthew Perry,” said Thelton Henderson, senior district judge for the District of Northern California. “For over 60 years, he has given promise to justice.” Henderson expressed fear that the number of minorities in the legal profession, rather than increasing, is falling. “Thurgood Marshall is applauding from heaven,” said Harvey Gantt, the North Carolina architect and political figure. In 1963, Perry was the lawyer who succeeded in forcing Clemson University to admit Gantt, thereby integrating that public institution. “He changed the mores and culture of the state.” Perry was humble in receiving the reward and accolades, and seemed especially moved by the large contingent of South Carolina lawyers who traveled to San Francisco to honor him. “I am proud indeed,” he said.

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