Civil rights pioneer Matthew Perry, a Columbia lawyer and judge who forced cultural change in South Carolina through intellect, hard work and courage, was found dead at his home on Sunday.
He would have turned 90 later this week.
Perry apparently died of natural causes on Friday and his body was discovered by a family member who came by on Sundays to prepare a meal for Perry and his wife, Hallie, Richland coroner Gary Watts said. Watts said Hallie Perry has "health issues."
Perry was one of the first black men from the South appointed to a federal court. At his death, he was still serving as a senior U.S. District Court judge for the state of South Carolina.
During the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, Perry was a young, unflappable attorney who made friends of his enemies even as he compelled resistant whites to open public parks and university classrooms to black South Carolinians.
He knew the law when few black men did. Every courtroom appearance, he once said, was a crusade to prove he was thoroughly prepared.