The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Huel D. Perkins

Retired educator Huel Davis Perkins was born on December 27, 1924 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Between 1943 and 1946, Perkins served in the U.S. Navy as a musician first class. He graduated from Southern University with highest honors in 1947.

From 1948 to 1950, Perkins worked as a music instructor at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Perkins then served as an associate professor of music at Southern University from 1951 through 1960. During this time, Perkins also completed his M.A. degree in music from Northwestern University in 1951 and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1958. From 1968 to 1978, Perkins served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Southern University. In addition, Perkins was appointed as the deputy director of education programming at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. in 1978. Perkins then commenced a long tenure at Louisiana State University where he served as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs from 1979 through 1990 and as Executive Assistant to the Chancellor and Special Assistant to the Chancellor from 1990 through 1998. In 1996, President Bill Clinton appointed Perkins to the Board of Advisors of the J.W. Fulbright foreign scholarship program. He served in this capacity until 2002. Perkins then founded Huel D. Perkins & Associates, Inc., a consulting firm and speakers bureau. He serves as its president. Perkins has also served as Chairman on the Education Foundation of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and has served as Grand Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. In 2005, Louisiana State University acknowledged Perkins’ years of service by awarding him the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and naming a doctoral fellowship program after him.

Perkins has also been honored by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (Humanist of the Year); the National Conference of Christians and Jews (Brotherhood Award); the LSU Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa (Outstanding educator); the Baton Rouge Human Relations Council (Brotherhood Award); the Istrouma Area Council of Boy Scouts of America (Citizen of the Year); the Louisiana Chapter of NAACP (A. P. Turead Award); the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Award of Merit) and received the Centennial Award given by Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He has served as a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Perkins has critiqued and published numerous books and articles on the African American experience in America. He has served on several dozen boards dealing with social and educational issues including the Baton Rouge Symphony, Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Corp., and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Perkins is the recipient of many public service awards for his achievements both in the civic and academic communities.

Perkins is married to Thelma O. Smith. 2008 marks the couple’s sixtieth wedding anniversary. They have one child, Huel Alfred Perkins.

Perkins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 26, 2008.

Dr. Huel Perkins passed away on April 15, 2013.

Accession Number

A2008.063

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/26/2008

Last Name

Perkins

Maker Category
Middle Name

D.

Schools

Southern University Laboratory School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Northwestern University

First Name

Huel

Birth City, State, Country

Baton Rouge

HM ID

PER04

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Boule Foundation

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Man Comes To Earth Unarmed Except For His Mind; His Brain Is His Only Weapon.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

12/27/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baton Rouge

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Death Date

4/15/2013

Short Description

Academic administrator and music professor Huel D. Perkins (1924 - 2013 ) was an instructor at Lincoln University and Southern University, where he also served as dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. At Louisiana State University, he served as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. In 2002, Perkins founded Huel D. Perkins & Associates, Inc.

Employment

Southern University and A&M

Louisiana State University

National Endowment for the Humanities

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:428,2:14325,255:34112,546:36928,609:46547,710:48002,738:49845,767:52870,796:53410,804:60300,880:61140,898:63298,914:63922,927:68186,1031:96740,1333:98927,1369:99494,1378:109430,1525:112972,1566:116505,1606:123000,1656:135260,1818$0,0:3686,56:4268,63:12566,301:12934,400:33072,574:34934,601:35326,606:36698,628:43950,738:46890,791:56588,977:62396,1121:72796,1273:73300,1280:75988,1331:80250,1372:80538,1377:80826,1382:81114,1387:82050,1408:83346,1429:83634,1434:88026,1481:89780,1487:92030,1501:94026,1516:105798,1704:110369,1739:113531,1794:127146,1986:129858,2020:136525,2105:140683,2141:141015,2146:144916,2202:145248,2207:161054,2379:162086,2396:162430,2401:162860,2408:172942,2560:173412,2566:178220,2614
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Huel D. Perkins' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Huel D. Perkins lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Huel D. Perkins describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Huel D. Perkins talks about the significance of his first name

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Huel D. Perkins describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Huel D. Perkins describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Huel D. Perkins describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Huel D. Perkins describes his father's law career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Huel D. Perkins describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Huel D. Perkins describes how he takes after his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Huel D. Perkins describes his childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Huel D. Perkins describes his childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Huel D. Perkins recalls Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Huel D. Perkins talks about Reverend Gardner Taylor

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Huel D. Perkins recalls his early musicianship

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Huel D. Perkins recalls the musicians who served at Naval Station Great Lakes

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Huel D. Perkins recalls his decision to return to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Huel D. Perkins remembers his influential teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Huel D. Perkins recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Huel D. Perkins remembers his fiftieth wedding anniversary

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Huel D. Perkins describes his interdisciplinary teaching style

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Huel D. Perkins remembers his graduate studies in the humanities

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Huel D. Perkins recalls student demonstrations at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Huel D. Perkins reflects upon Felton Grandison Clark's legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Huel D. Perkins talks about Valerian Smith's family

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Huel D. Perkins remembers his students at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Huel D. Perkins describes his transition to academic administration

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Huel D. Perkins remembers joining the National Endowment for the Humanities

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Huel D. Perkins describes his career at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Huel D. Perkins talks about the National Endowment for the Humanities

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Huel D. Perkins describes his research on the Harlem Renaissance

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Huel D. Perkins talks about his published works

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Huel D. Perkins reflects upon the importance of the humanities

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Huel D. Perkins describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Huel D. Perkins talks about his favorite figures in the humanities

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Huel D. Perkins remembers influencing his students' interest in opera

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Huel D. Perkins talks about 'Cyrano de Bergerac' by Edmond Rostand

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Huel D. Perkins talks about 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Huel D. Perkins describes his civic activities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Huel D. Perkins reflects upon his health

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Huel D. Perkins reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Huel D. Perkins describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Huel D. Perkins narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Huel D. Perkins remembers joining the National Endowment for the Humanities
Huel D. Perkins describes his career at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
Transcript
I spoke there [Dallas, Texas] on the importance of the humanities. The fellow was there, who was the chairman of the endowment for, for the humanities. And he came to me right after that and said, "Would you like to come to Washington [D.C.], would you like to come to the National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH]?" I said, "No sir, no sir, I would not like to." I said, "Besides, I've only, I've recently signed a contract to go to LSU [Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana]." He said, "Oh, what's his name, I'll talk with your chancellor down there. I, I think I can get you released from them." I said, "Well, I, I'm not certain I want to do that." He twisted my arm and said, "You come up and you look at our operation. I think you will want to be a part of it." I went to Washington on a kind of a look-see. I decided that's what I wanted to do. They offered me a contract to, to join them in September. I'm supposed to report to LSU. What do I do? Now, I have, I've signed a contract. I have that commit- commitment. I go down--I'll never forget this. I go down to the chancellor, Paul Murrill [Paul W. Murrill], the same fellow who had enticed me to come to LSU. I said, "I agree, I will sign, I will sign my contract." I said, "I'm supposed to report September 1st." I said, "But in the meantime, I have gotten an offer to join the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington." You know what he said? I'll never forget this because he made, he made me feel so relieved about it all. He said, "Take the job in Washington." He said, "It will be both beneficial to you and to LSU. Drop me a note, and request a year's leave of absence, and go to Washington." That's what I did, that's what I did, and I am very happy that I did it, I am very happy that I did it.$Well, I--in Washington [D.C.], I was reading proposals, making speeches, interpreting the endowment [National Endowment for the Humanities] to, to the various publics and whatnot. At the end of that year, I didn't want to come to LSU [Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana] (laughter). They sent a dean up to Washington. He came up for another meeting. When he came by to see me, he said, "I'm told--we hear that you, you might want to stay in Washington a little longer than this year." He said, "I'm up here to tell you that we want you back, that we're expecting you back, and we have increased your salary just to make you, make sure you come back." So, I'm in another quandary--look, look, the qua- the quandary I gave to you earlier was when I wanted to go to--come back to Southern [Southern University; Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana], and finish my, my senior year, you remember. And I said, my mother [Velma Davis Perkins] and the fraternity [Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity]--. Here I am, another quandary in my life: do I want to negate the contract down there, and stay on in Washington? 'Cause I was, I was really doing nicely in Washington, I really was--traveling all over the country and making speeches. And they liked me at the endowment, and that sort of thing, so I had to come and make some hard decisions there. My decision then was to come back to LSU. I talked with somebody, and they said, Washington is temporary. It changes administration every four years (laughter). You, you put your, your eggs in that basket, you don't know how long you're going to be there, you know, it could change. Well, I had some good counseling, so I came on back to LSU, came back to LSU, and stayed twenty-three years. I did twenty-seven at Southern, and I came back to LSU and did twenty-three, including two retirements. I retired once--they asked me to come back. I retired again, they asked me to come back. Then, this last time, which was in 2005, I think it was, I said I'm not going back this time. It became a joke: you're back (laughter) you're back down here. Every chancellor would ask me to come, come, come back there, mainly because I, I, I did a lot of letter writing, a lot of speech writing. And they would let me represent the university and I could represent it well, and people would see they have a black now at LSU, I mean, you know, who, who represents the university. Each chancellor would ask me, ask me to come back, and I, I'd stay here two or three months and, oh, come on, I'd go back down there.