When you travel down Richland Street in Columbia, you might notice a stately brick building with tall columns and an American flag flying out front. It’s the Matthew J. Perry Jr. Courthouse, named for the first African American lawyer from the Deep South to be appointed to the federal judiciary.
Judge Perry was born in Columbia in 1921, a time when Jim Crow attitudes prevailed. He saw and experienced firsthand racial and economic discrimination. “I accepted our plight as a fact of life,” he is reported to have said, “and yet I was sure that it wasn’t right.