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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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LEGACY: Attorney Samuel L. Perkins remembered as a “giant” and “gentleman”

For many, words such as “giant” and “gentleman” were placed comfortably in sentences describing renowned Memphis defense attorney Samuel L. Perkins, who passed away on Tuesday.

Mr. Perkins was the former president of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and was the first African American to hold the title.

In a social media post, James Franklin’s account of his experiences with Mr. Perkins echoed the sentiments of so many others.

“Most of my colleagues knew you as a great teacher and mentor in the legal profession. Unlike them, I actually had the opportunity to meet you as a 19-year-old clueless sophomore in college.

“I called no fewer than four Memphis area attorneys and you were the only one that returned my call. You invited me into your office, and allowed me to do an internship with you, even though I understood nothing of the legal system or how it worked. You taught me plenty that summer, not legal training, but you taught me how important it was for an attorney to keep his promises, and to maintain good relationships with the sheriff, police, clerks, court staff, and other attorneys. 

“You emphasized the importance of keeping promises made to clients, other attorneys, and the courts. These practical lessons were just as important, if not more important than any legal training I received. It was your passion and integrity that drew me to the legal profession, and I am indeed among very many that you have inspired. …”

Mayor Jim Strickland tweeted this: “Sad to learn of the passing of Sam Perkins, who practiced law in Memphis for 36 years. I witnessed his positive impact on our profession as a strong advocate for his clients and as a role model and mentor for so many younger lawyers.”

Mr. Perkins’ law firm had a nearly decade-long record of support for mentoring programs across Memphis and Shelby County. A recent sponsorship donation went to support the Young Historians Club, a project that trained high school students to become paid tour guides and sales associates. The privately funded program reflects the work of Man of the House Mentoring, College Ready Memphis, Inc., and the South Memphis Renewal Community Development Corporation (CDC).

At the time, Mr. Perkins said, “We’ve been supporting these efforts for many years, and simply want to congratulate the ‘Young Historians’ for their diligence, hard work, and their sincere study of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Mr. Perkins’ firm took on both high profile cases, and smaller criminal cases, including juveniles, for nearly 30 years.

“Every citizen deserves an equal opportunity for success and vindication if needed, which is what the American Civil Rights Movement was really all about,” Mr. Perkins said.

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