Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry at age 9

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Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry at age 9

Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry at age 9

February 24, 2017

Well, I guess you have to talk about the early years. I was always on the academic track. I never took any vocational courses and I don't know why I didn't, but I guess I didn't. But when my mother worked she would take me to a babysitter and this babysitter happen to have about ten or twelve children. Instead of just watching us she would teach us sort of like a Head Start Program. And I learned to read and write in cursive. So by the time I started to the organized kindergarten they were learning ABC's sing a long and I knew my ABC's already. So by the time I went to the first grade I was put in the upper tier of the, you know, they have tiers, first, second, third, fourth, fifth and I was in the top one. And that was normally reserved for the parents of professionals who had, I guess, a head start, because education begins at home.

Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry describes his childhood education in this excerpt from an oral history interview with Justice Perry at the Orlando Public Library on December 19, 2017.

LISTEN Part II (17:23)

Hattie Perry, Broad Street Teacher Extraordinaire

Mine didn't begin at home. It began at my babysitter and her name was Hattie Perry. She wasn't related. But they called her "Mutt" and I would walk to Broad Street, which was about two to three blocks from my house, every day and she would teach us. How would she maintain discipline? You know, I don't really remember, but she must have had discipline. We all had assignments. We were doing things. We were learning. They say, "an idle mind is the devil's workshop." So I don't know if she did this on purpose or it was a fortuitous thing. But she did it on purpose in terms of teaching us, but I don't know if she did it in order to have discipline or she did it because it was the right thing to do. But I don't remember any disruptions. Isn't that kind of amazing? Yes, it is. It's amazing. My whole life has been amazing.

Most Versatile, Best All Around Student

Yes, that was in high school. As I said, I was in the upper tier from the first grade on up through the 12th. I started playing football, varsity football in the 8th grade. I really shouldn't have started until the 9th grade. I was 6'2 at the time. And I played basketball, varsity basketball in the 8th grade mainly because of my size. I had a little skill. But, I was young and everybody was older. I sang in the chorus. I was in the student government. My senior year I was vice president of the student council. I played both sports and I was pretty good in academics. I probably should have been voted most athletic, but they couldn't. because I was the only one who played both sports and played them pretty good. I guess thy though that was enough superlatives for best all around, most versatile they called it. And I was also the first male to take typing in my junior year. And then the next year females couldn't get in the class. There was a stigma. Typing was feminine. So I sort of broke that barrier...

Photo courtesy of the Florida Supreme Court Justice James E. C. Perry Archives

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