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Perkins, Carl Dewey (1912-1984) | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Name: Perkins, Carl Dewey (1912-1984)

Historical Note: Carl D. Perkins, was born in Hindman, KY on October 15, 1912. He attended school in Knott County before enrolling at Caney Junior College (now Alice Lloyd). He also attended Lees College before teaching 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 time 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 after his first tenure was interrupted by combat service in 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. Perkins became chairman of the committee in 1967, as it prepared to consider major anti-poverty legislation. Perkins was a champion of the rights of labor, one of the nation's foremost advocates of federal social welfare programs for the disadvantaged and was considered the father of virtually every postwar federal education program. His 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. He helped formulate the Economic Opportunity Act, centerpiece of Lyndon 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 at Leburn, KY. (Adapted from: The Kentucky Encyclopedia, 1992.)

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