Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sid Salter: Remembering Ed Perry

State Rep. Felix Edwin “Stump” Perry was one of the most effective legislators in the long history of the Mississippi House, but it was the style with which Ed carried out his legislative duties that made Ed’s passing last week at age 76 statewide news.

 Perry’s legislative pedigree is legendary. He was elected to the state House of Representatives from Lafayette County in 1967 and served 32 consecutive years or eight terms before retiring in 1999. While serving in the House, Perry at various junctures chaired the Appropriations, Constitution, Judiciary, and Municipalities committees.
Perhaps better than most, Perry understood that immense power that came from chairing the House Appropriations Committee and he used that power to benefit public education at all levels. But Ed’s loyalty to his Ole Miss alma mater was keenly evident.

During that time, Perry would summon Dr. Donald Zacharias, the thoughtful president of Mississippi State University, to testify before his committee and give him a fair hearing of the legislative “wish list” for the Starkville university. He likewise provided forums for the state’s other seven higher education institutions.

In that way, Perry would tell me, it made it easier to fund projects for the whole of higher education in Mississippi by not favoring his school over the other seven.

After his House retirement, the members elected him as Clerk of the House in 2000. Perry retired from that post in March 2004. He served as municipal attorney for the City of Oxford for 19 years and served 12 years as attorney to the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors.

Ed’s diminutive physical stature invited the nickname “Stump” and he wore it well, actually turning it to his advantage. On any number of occasions when Ed was speaking, a colleague from the back of the House floor would call on him to “stand up” while another would quickly answer that “he already is.”

In his prime, Ed’s challenged height was accentuated by a thick neck, short arms and a face reddened by exertion or the passion with which he was delivering a speech on the floor of the House. Ed’s prowess as a speaker was unmatched and neither his size nor the high pitch of his voice lessened his impact.

As lawmakers often said in deference to Perry: “Ed Perry could evermore shuck the corn.” Following his death, much has been made of Ed’s spot-on rendition of the fiery and rhetorically side-stepping 1952 “whiskey speech” delivered by former state representative, judge, and law professor Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat. To be sure, Ed could charm any audience large or small with his performance. But Ed was enthralled with all powerful speakers who could mesmerize audiences, not just Judge Sweat. He greatly admired the oratory of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

Back in 1982, Perry was among the inner circle of close friends of Mississippi author Willie Morris. Along with then Mayor John Leslie, Ed Morgan, Charles Henry, Clyde Goolsby, and David Sansing, Perry was one of the central figures in Willie’s life during his time as writer-in-residence at Ole Miss.

In those days, interlopers at Willie’s 16 Faculty Row bungalow on the campus on any given evening might encounter writers such as Larry L. King, William Styron, Larry McMurtry, David Halberstam, Winston Groom, George Plimpton and Mississippi journalists Orley Hood, Rick Cleveland, or Billy Watkins.

Those visiting luminaries were usually joined by a revolving collection of students, barflies, and camp followers, including elected officials on numerous occasions. “The oil of conversation” as Judge Sweat famously referred to whiskey, usually flowed. The conversations among that group was nothing short of fascinating.

Ed Perry captivated them all. Few who met Perry forgot him. His legislative legacy was simple – “be as good as your word.”

“Stump” Perry left state government in Mississippi far better than he found it by sticking to that creed.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Has Salter Switched Gears? said...

Great Article! I remember the man, vaguely but this brings him back to life, for me. This article was a much better read than Sid's usual pontifications.

I'd like to see a similar article about Greenville's Sonny Meredith including the unequaled artistry with which he hornswaggled the legislature into approving dockside-gambling. They say Sonny could read a bill once and thereafter be able to quote it precisely, never referring back to printed copy. I hope Salter will consider an article about Sonny.

CK said...

As in Casablanca, “we will always have Paris.” Today, I say, “We will always have the Ed Perry tapes.”

Unknown said...

The man was typical of most who serve in legislative positions for that length of time - they become a legend in their own mind.

Anonymous said...

I practiced law with Sonny Merideth decades back. He was a true genius with a mind like a bear trap.

Anonymous said...

Another one died this week, I guess Sid will talk about that next week instead of the plight of Mississippians affected by the Trump Shutdown.

Anonymous said...

Oh to have been a fly on the wall from those late night committee meetings or late nights at Willie’s house. They say the secret to Ed’s success is that though it was short, his right leg was hollow.

From what I saw, he was always a kind gentleman to others.

Let's Make This One About Trump Too.. said...

5:16; We don't need Sid for that as long as we have you and the other geniuses sitting in the bleachers tossing spit-balls, scratching your nut-sack and moaning about your president while ignoring his accomplishments.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS