Selma's First African American Mayor to Give VLS King Day Talk
January 12, 2010
Former Selma, Alabama, Mayor James Perkins, Jr., to Lead VLS Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Jan. 11, 2010
CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
SOUTH ROYALTON, VT – James Perkins, Jr., the first African American mayor of Selma, Ala., will lead Vermont Law School's observance of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. The campus celebration is scheduled from 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010, in the Chase Community Center. The event is open to the public. Admission is free.
Perkins' MLK Day talk is titled "Changing Politics in the South." The event also will include remarks from VLS President and Dean Jeff Shields and a presentation by the Black Law Students Association.
Perkins, a Selma native, was among the first black students to enter Selma's A.G. Parrish High School in 1969 under mandatory desegregation.
Shirley Jefferson, VLS associate dean for student affairs and diversity, became a classmate of Perkins in 1971 after the school was renamed Selma High School. Perkins and Jefferson became friends and student activists during their high school years.
"James Perkins paved the way for me, and we were partners in protest," Jefferson said. "He and I were freedom fighters and leaders and we fought for things together in high school, so to have him share his life experiences with us at Vermont Law School is an honor."
Following a career in information technology, Perkins was elected mayor of Selma in 2000, unseating an incumbent who had held the office since 1965. During Perkins' two terms as mayor from 2000 to 2008, Selma increased jobs, added innovative education and training programs, adopted a comprehensive environmental cleanup strategy, improved housing, initiated downtown revitalization, made many capital improvements and modernized the city's government.
Perkins was running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama's 7th Congressional District, but he recently withdrew from the race because of a hip injury.
Perkins has held a number of leadership positions, including serving as a member of Selma University's board of trustees, the Selma Economic Development Authority, the Alabama League of Municipalities, the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National League of Cities and the World Conference of Mayors.
Perkins started his business career as a computer programmer with Caterpillar Tractor Co. and also worked for Martin Marietta Corp., as a project manager. He later owned and operated an information technology consulting business, Business Ventures, Inc., in Selma and Birmingham.