Humanitarian Huel Perkins dies at 88

Huel D. Perkins, a former longtime administrator with both Southern University and LSU and a Baton Rouge humanitarian, died Monday.

He was 88.

Perkins was dean of Southern University’s College of Arts and Humanities from 1968 to 1978 after directing Southern’s music department for eight years.

He wrote Southern’s fight song in 1951.

Perkins, a Baton Rouge native, graduated from Southern in 1947 with a degree in music. He earned a master’s degree and doctorate from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Southern University Chancellor James Llorens said Perkins wrote a letter of recommendation for him when he applied for the chancellor’s position in 2011.

He said Perkins was a “true son of Southern,” even after he left the university to work at LSU.

“He was a classy gentleman,” Llorens said. “Always a quick wit, quick to tell a joke, but at the same time quick to share a lot of wisdom.”

Perkins started working for LSU in 1979 as an assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs. He held that position until 1990, when he began working in the chancellor’s office as an executive assistant and special assistant.

In 2005, he was awarded a doctor of humane letters from LSU and had a doctoral fellowship program named in his honor.

“Dr. Perkins has done so much for higher education in Louisiana, and his mark will be felt by many for years to come,” LSU Interim System President and Interim Chancellor William Jenkins said in a statement. “He will be sorely missed.”

James Wharton, LSU’s chancellor from 1981 to 1989, said Perkins was an “intellectual of the first magnitude.”

“He set an example for the university in terms of the way to handle its business,” Wharton said. “He just handled things in a way that made it pleasant to work with him.”

Perkins’ son, Huel Alfred Perkins, said his father was a man of integrity who tried to see the best in everyone he met.

Huel Alfred Perkins said his father taught him that education and preparation could help a person overcome any barrier.

He noted that his father was denied admittance to LSU’s graduate program in 1947, despite meeting all the criteria and being a Navy veteran, because of his race.

“He especially wanted to inspire young people to achieve their highest potential,” Huel Alfred Perkins said.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer appointed Perkins to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in 1988, and former President Bill Clinton named him to the board of advisers of the J.W. Fulbright foreign scholarship program in 1996.

Perkins earned a number of humanitarian awards in his career and served on many boards, including the Capital Area United Way, Baton Rouge Symphony, Louisiana Public Broadcasting Corp. and the New Orleans Museum of Art. He was a member of Sigma Pi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities.

Funeral arrangements for Perkins are pending.