Sunday, October 15, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: October 15, 1912 – Carl Perkins


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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Among the last of the New Deal liberals, Carl Dexter Perkins, who served eastern Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives, was born October 15, 1912, in Hindman, Kentucky. He was the son of James Elbert Perkins, a lawyer, and Dora (Calhoun) Perkins, a teacher. Following his education in the Knott County Schools, at Caney Junior College (now Alice Lloyd ), and at Lees College, he taught in a remote Knott County school. In 1935 he graduated from the University of Louisville law school. He entered private practice for the next three years, during which he married Verna Johnson, a teacher. They had one child, Carl Christopher. Perkins completed an unexpired term as commonwealth attorney in 1939 and the following year was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly . He was elected Knott County attorney in 1941, and again in 1945, his tenure interrupted by combat service in the European theater during World War II.

A Democrat from Kentucky's mountainous 7th District, Perkins was first elected to Congress in 1948 and began to serve on January 3, 1949. He was appointed to the House Education and Labor Committee, arena for many of the ideological struggles over the social agenda of the federal government. A conservative coalition on the committee frustrated many liberal initiatives supported by Perkins, but the landslide election of 1964 produced a liberal majority sufficient to enact legislation fundamental to President Lyndon Johnson's program. Perkins became chairman of the committee in 1967, as it prepared to consider major antipoverty legislation. Many doubted whether the unsophisticated country lawyer was equal to the demands of his new position, but Perkins's diligence, persistent commitment to liberal principles, mastery of congressional procedures, and skills of personal persuasion soon gained him a reputation as one of the most influential men in Washington.

Perkins became a champion of the rights of labor, one of the nation's foremost advocates of federal social welfare programs for the disadvantaged, and, in the words of the former president of the National Education Association, Mary Hatwood Futrell, "the father of virtually every postwar federal education program." Perkins's bill supporting vocational education became law in 1963. The following year his committee produced landmark legislation to provide financial aid to disadvantaged college students, and, for the first time, extend general federal aid to elementary and secondary education. Perkins helped formulate the Economic Opportunity Act, centerpiece of Johnson's War on Poverty, and was one of its strongest advocates. He was a champion of the Head Start program, the school lunch program, adult education, federal assistance to libraries, and federal aid for the construction of highways and hospitals in the depressed Appalachian region. An early supporter of civil rights, Perkins backed President Harry S. Truman's attempt to establish a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, and was one of eleven Southern Democrats to vote for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He also wrote federal legislation to improve safety standards in coal mines and to extend compensation to victims of black lung disease.

In his final years, Perkins fought vigorously to protect federal education and social welfare programs from budget cuts, and he emerged as a leading Democratic spokesman in opposition to the Reagan administration. Perkins died of a massive heart attack on August 3, 1984, en route from Washington to his home in Hindman and was buried in Perkins Cemetery, Leburn, Kentucky.

DANIEL G. STROUP, Entry Author

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Appalshop, Inc. A Tribute to Carl D. Perkins. Whitesburg, KY: Appalshop, 1984.
SC-V3415, Young Media Library

Reeves, Andrée E., and University Press of Kentucky. Congressional Committee Chairmen : Three Who Made an Evolution. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 1993. Print. Comparative Legislative Studies.
JK1430.E352 R44 1993, Young Library - 4th Floor

United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Printing. Memorial Services Held in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States, Together with Tributes Presented in Eulogy of Carl D. Perkins, Late a Representative from Kentucky, Ninety-eighth Congress, Second Session. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1984. Print.
Y 7.1:P 41/3, Young Library - U.S. Government Publications (5th floor)

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