U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Perry, a towering civil rights figure who used intellect, hard work and courage to end segregation in South Carolina and usher in a more just society, was found dead at his home on Sunday. He would have turned 90 this week.
Perry, who went to work as usual on Friday at the courthouse that now bears his name, apparently died of natural causes Friday evening. His body was discovered by a family member who came by each Sunday to prepare a meal for Perry and his wife Hallie, Richland County coroner Gary Watts said. Hallie Perry is in poor health, Watts said.
News of Perrys death prompted an outpouring of emotion as colleagues, friends and clients remembered a man who, like former U.S. Sen. Ernest Fritz Hollings and the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, was a transformative figure in the political life of the state.
He was a shining example of unflinching courage and leadership, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a statement. Simply put, he was a giant and this world will be a lesser place without him.
The mayor said flags at city buildings will be flown at half-staff in coming days.