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Memorial service for James Perkins announced

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Posted on Monday, February 14, 2022

A memorial service for Dr. James A. Perkins, professor emeritus of English, will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 12, in the Witherspoon Rooms of McKelvey Campus Center. A reception will follow near Perkins' office on the ground floor of McGill Library.

Perkins 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.’”

Born in Covington, Ky., on Feb. 7, 1941, 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.

Perkins is survived by his wife, Jane; two sons, James Allen Perkins of Roseville, Calif., and Jeffrey Ashbrook Perkins of Cincinnati, Ohio; two grandsons, Rory and Joshua; and several nieces and nephews.

Interment was held in the family lot at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn.