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Marion R. Perry was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on July 11, 1892. He received an A.B. from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) in 1912. During World War I, he was one of four Negroes to graduate in the 17th Provisional Training Battalion as a Second Lieutenant. During his two years in the Army, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.
After the war, Perry worked for the Mosaic Templars of America, a fraternal insurance company, for ten years, during part of which he obtained an LL.B. from the law school of the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 1924. He also attended classes at Columbia University School of Law for three months. He was admitted to practice before the state Supreme Court on February 16, 1925.
Perry was identified as an attorney in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) City Directories from 1926 until 1931, where he engaged in a business law practice. During this period, he represented the Mosaic Templars in some of its business matters, as well as representing Liberty Finance Corp. (Helena), Century Life Insurance Co. (Hot Springs) and Guaranty Security & Investment Co., all Black-owned businesses. Perry also owned a half-interest in the family undertaking business and was president of Olympic Life Insurance Co., both located in Pine Bluff.
In 1927 Perry married Mae Walker, the adopted grand-daughter of Madame C.J. Walker, who had made a fortune in the cosmetics industry. They had one daughter, A’Lelia Mae Perry. When his mother-in-law died, Perry moved with his wife to Indianapolis, Indiana, to work with the Madame C.J. Walker Co. He returned to Pine Bluff in 1936, where he resumed his work in the law and the undertaking and insurance businesses. Perry died in 1983, at the age of 91.
Sources: Judith Kilpatrick, “(EXTRA)Ordinary Men: African-American Lawyers and Civil Rights in Arkansas Before 1950,” 53 Ark. Law Rev. 299, 381 n630, 394 (2000); A’Lelia Bundles, “An Outline of Marion Perry Jr.’s Negro Progress in the United States (from 1835 to the present) at www.ABundles@aol.com; Who's Who in Colored America 411 (1933-37; Colored Classified Section, 5/16/1927, Arkansas Democrat, p. 10; James W. Leslie, “1867 Legislation Established Public Schools in County”, 6/12/1986, Pine Bluff News, p. 1D; “20th Century Club” Directory, est 1927 – 52, rec’d from Henri Linton, UAPB, 4/19/99; African American Biographical Database, profile athttp://aabd.chadwyck.com/bbidx/full_rec (last visited 6/9/99); Photograph from A’Lelia Bundles; Papers of the NAACP, Part 1, G 13, Branch Files, PB, 1935 – 36 (letter dtd 11/27/1936 from A.M. Parker to Walter White, New York office regarding membership payments); Papers of the NAACP, Part 1, G 13, Branch Files, PB, 1937-38 (Membership Report dtd 1/5/1938); Papers of the NAACP, Part 12, Reel 4, no. 1016 (letter dtd 9/4/1928 to Little Rock, AR. - N.A.A.C.P Secretary regarding membership payments); letter dtd 9/17/1997, from A’Lelia Bundles to Thomas Kennedy, Dept. Of History, University of Arkansas;
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