Commencement Features Author, Civil Rights leader John Perkins

Published: Apr 01, 2015

John Perkins during a 2007 Taylor chapel service

Noted author and Civil Rights leader John M. Perkins is the featured speaker for Taylor University Commencement exercises on May 23, 2015. Commencement will begin at 10:00 a.m., and be held in the Kesler Student Activities Center on the Taylor campus.

Perkins is president of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation of Jackson, Mississippi. An internationally known author, speaker and teacher on issues of racial reconciliation and Christian community development, Perkins is considered to be one of the leading evangelical voices to come out of the American civil rights movement.

Perkins is the author of nine books including: Let Justice Roll Down; With Justice for All; Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development; He’s My Brother: Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation; Restoring At-Risk Communities: Doing It Together and Doing It Right, and others.

He has served on the board of directors of organizations including: World Vision, Prison Fellowship, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Perkins was born in 1930 in New Hebron, Mississippi, but fled the state in 1947 after his brother Clyde was killed by a town marshal. He settled in southern California and later served in the Korean Conflict. After embracing the Christian faith in the late 1950s, Perkins moved his family to Mendenhall, Mississippi, a neighboring town to New Hebron.

Perkins’ Civil Rights work included supporting voter registration efforts in Simpson County, leading an economic boycott, and school desegregation when he enrolled his son Spencer at Mendenhall High School, a formerly all-white school. In 1970, following the arrest of students who had taken part in a protest march in Mendenhall, Perkins was arrested and tortured by police in Brandon Jail.

In addition to the John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, Perkins founded Voice of Calvary Bible Institute (Mendenhall, Miss.), Harambee Christian Family Center (Pasadena, Calif.), and the Christian Community Development Association, a nationwide network of evangelical congregations and organizations working in urban settings. Perkins established the Spencer Perkins Center for Reconciliation and Community Development in Jackson, Mississippi, after the death of his son.

Perkins partnered with Seattle Pacific University to launch the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development (2004). Switchfoot, a popular alternative-rock band, paid tribute to Perkins in their song The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues).

Taylor University officials will award Perkins with an honorary doctorate. Also receiving an honorary doctorate that day will be Professor of Political Science Emeritus R. Phillip Loy.