Skip to main content

Westminster College mourns loss of professor emeritus James Perkins

Share on:

Posted on Friday, January 28, 2022

Dr. James A. Perkins, professor emeritus of English, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 27, in his home in New Wilmington.

Perkins, who joined the Westminster College faculty in 1973 as an assistant professor, rose to the rank of full professor in 1987. He is credited with pioneering Westminster’s public relations major, and over the course of his tenure he served as the chair of the Department of English and Public Relations. In 2005, he led the first group of Westminster students in the Westminster in Oxford Program, a semester-long study abroad experience.

Perkins has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar at Yale University, New York University and Princeton University. In 1998 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to lecture on American literature at Seoul National University in Korea. He was the recipient of Westminster’s Henderson Lectureship, a McCandless Fellowship and a Watto Award. In 2006, he was presented with the College’s Distinguished Faculty Award in recognition of his unwavering commitment to Westminster and its students. Following his 2008 retirement, he served as curator of the Westminster authors collection in McGill Library.

A prolific writer, poet and scholar, Perkins authored numerous books, articles for journals and magazines and countless poems. A leading scholar of Robert Penn Warren, Perkins wrote extensively about the “All the King’s Men” author. In 2005, his study of Warren led to an effort to see the late U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp. When he succeeded, Perkins was named by the Kentucky governor as an honorary Kentucky Colonel. In 2021, he published his 20th book, “Black Jack Burden? — Night Thoughts on the Genetics of Race in Robert Penn Warren’s ‘All the King’s Men.’”

A Kentucky native, Perkins earned his undergraduate degree from Centre College in 1963, his master’s from Miami (Ohio) University in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee in 1972. He held teaching stints at Miami, Memphis State University, and Tennessee.

A memorial service will be held at a later time. Interment will take place in the family lot at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn.