Sunday, June 07, 2015

Harlin Jackson Perryman: 1927-2015

About a month ago, on May 10th, my brother Shan emailed to let me know that our maternal uncle Harlin had died:
Mom just called to inform me Uncle Harlin died. After lunch he died peacefully in his sleep. He was active to the very end, walking, birding, reading, etc. I knew you would want to know having been closer to him than any of us. He was a remarkable man in many ways.
He was remarkable. A man of many interests, he had a powerful mind to match. In addition to knowing more about law than any man I'd ever met, he was also an amateur expert on wine, birds, and chess, among other things, and he had a professional interest in history:
"French Nationalism and Foreign Policy from September 20, 1792 to January 31, 1793: The Patriotism of the French Leaders and the Policy Followed by the Convention"
Harlin Jackson Perryman
University of Arkansas, 1952
246 pages
He had, in fact, gotten a scholarship for Pennsylvania State University:
Harlan (sic) Perryman, who was a very sharp student, got a good fellowship at Pennsylvania State University.
But he couldn't get along with his adviser, who thought all Southerners were stupid - or treated them that way - so Harlin returned to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he seems to have gotten his master's degree. He then served a term as an elected member of the Arkansas Legislature, for which the above photograph was made, afterwards returning to Fayetteville for a law degree.

He and I had a number of discussions about history, and he always knew the details better than I did. This was during my time at Berkeley, for he and I lived close enough for me to visit him and Aunt Betty. He worked as a lawyer in San Jose, if I recall, and he was involved in advising the California Democratic Party, which he also served as treasurer. His politics were middle-of-the-road, so far as I could tell. I do recall that he didn't like "crazies," a label that he applied to the emotion-based politics of the left - and of the right, for that matter.

In many ways, he remained a man of the Ozarks, living in California's coastal-range Santa Cruz Mountains and chopping his own firewood. He was enough Cherokee to be recognizably Indian (despite that retouched photo above), and he stood an imposing six feet and three or four inches and looked pretty strong from the physical work he did in chopping wood to keep his home warm, and he believed to some degree in an earlier America's sense of frontier justice. He once told me, "A little violence never hurt anybody." But he was a peaceful man and laughed to show that he wasn't completely serious. He even laughed when I retorted that he was "a professional hillbilly." But he wouldn't have had to work hard at being one, for he retained his Ozark accent all his life.

Although we kept in contact throughout my time in Europe - he and Aunt Betty even visited me when I lived in Tuebingen, Germany - and though I took Sun-Ae to meet him and Betty in 1995, when he and I, along with our spouses, drank an expensive Rothschild red wine to celebrate my doctorate and marriage, we lost contact when my work took me to parts of the world other than Europe. I tried several times to track down his email address, but I could never find one, though I did find this:
Monday February 18[, 2013]. Melody and I had an adult bald eagle at Mather Lake at about 9:30 a.m. It was at first perched, but it began flying around the lake. Apparently it left soon after because we did not see it again until we left at about noon. Harlin Perryman. Sacramento
Melody was his adopted daughter, a daughter from Aunt Betty's first marriage, but I found neither his email address nor hers in my searches. I wish I knew more about him, but I found no obituary. Perhaps this is the closest thing to that. If so, and if others who knew Uncle Harlin wind up here looking for him, then please leave a comment and add what you know.

Meanwhile, Uncle Harlan, rest in peace.

Update: See more here.

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At 12:27 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Sincere condolences. Peace and blessings.

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kevin.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only knew Harlin from his frequent attendance on Sacramento Audubon bird walks.
I have always admired his love of observing nature, his short stories, his alertness, his gumption, unflagging spirit, and ready laugh. He nearly always commented on his ongoing observations at Mather Lake.
Despite being a former athlete (cyclist) he took his later physical limitations in stride, without fuss or ado.
If he had to wait and rest while the rest of the group moved on, he would later relate his many observations.
I will very much miss Harlin!
-Craig DeMartini

At 4:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. DeMartini, for the additional details. They certainly capture the Harlin I knew. If you know any other people who knew him, direct them here (if you don't mind).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harlin was a fixture on Sacramento Audubon field trips; in fact, if you look at the Sacramento Audubon Facebook page you will see Harlin in the top banner photo.

Several of us had, and will retain, many Harlin-isms. He was a tad cantankerous, but so am I, had a habit of elbowing folks away from spotting scopes so he could get a look (he often became miffed if someone took more than three seconds to look)and let you know exactly what he thought about anything!

He forever changed my vocabulary regarding what we all used to call telephone polls: "they're utility poles!" he would half-way shout in frustration.

Every field trip to Bodega Bay he would insist on getting clam chowder ~ noon, even though the trip write-up said to bring lunch and liquids, so as to keep the down time to a minimum...he still made whoever brought him break away from the group to take him to The Tides restaurant for his clam chowder.

I believe I last saw Harlin in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco earlier this year, while there for a rare bird, a Rustic Bunting. The man did get around despite his age and decreasing mobility; as you know, he birded right to the last day.

I could probably go on but there others in Sacramento Audubon who spent a lot more time with him; hopefully they will add some more stories.

Dan Kopp

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Kopp, for your words about Uncle Harlin - a complex man if there ever was one - and for the fact that the Sacramento Audubon Facebook page has him in its banner photo. Harlin is third from the right.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My pleasure Jeff.

I was remiss in saying I echo Mr. Martini's recollections. I never once heard him complain about his diminishing physical abilities either; I wish I could remember better something he told myself and another field trip participant while I was driving us back from Lake Solano Recreation area along Putah Creek; it was something to do with riding his bicycle for hundreds of miles, but I can't remember much more.

I also wanted to provide you with a link to a Sacramento Audubon newsletter shortly after he passed, with an In Memorium blurb:

Dan Kopp

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Dan. I came across that newsletter independently just yesterday and blogged on it this morning. I have several Harlin entries now, so I've added "Harlin Perryman" to the keyword search at the bottom of each post. A single click brings all those posts up.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

Another sacramento birder and I were birding in Arizona last week when I picked up a magazine at the Sonoita Creek Preserve in Patagonia and saw a snippet about Harlin. Check out this link:

The article is on page three; hopefully the link works.

Dan Kopp


At 4:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Dan, that's very kind of you. I'll link to this snippet on Harlin for you.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:00 AM, Anonymous said...

Melody Baldwin

The family submitted an obit for Harlin at:

I have tried to email you and..............


At 9:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Melody. I've received your email but have had no time to reply. I hope to contact you over Christmas.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:13 AM, Blogger Veritas said...

Harlin was a good friend of mine when we worked on the same floor in San Jose. He shared a small office with another lawyer, Richard L. Goett. Rick had the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Harlin on Mondays and Wednesdays, and they argued every week about whose turn it was on Fridays. Harlin came in every day anyway, worked crossword puzzles in the lobby, played chess, and had lunch with his friends. Once, when he was stuck on his puzzle, he called to me, his voice booming all the way to the elevator, "High! Are you a word man?" He told me he hung onto his hillbilly accent to gain an advantage on city folk who concluded from it that he was stupid. He achieved the second-highest score on the Arkansas statewide bar exam and passed California's with ease. I lost track of him in the 1990s when he and Betty retired and moved north. I tried to track him down, but, as is too often the case, only got a Google hit after his obituary appeared. I thought of him just this morning when I read a story about Donald Trump's personal attacks andI remembered another of Harlin's shouted questions: "High! Have you ever heard of an election where somebody lost by slingin' mud?" Harlin was a wonderful friend. "Take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Veritas, for the wonderful memories of Harlin. I learned a few new things - such as of him scoring second highest ever on the Arkansas bar exam (if I understood rightly).

Thanks for taking the time to post your anecdotes about the man. He was remarkable.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:24 AM, Blogger Veritas said...

Harlin's score was the second-best for that year's exam, which is remarkable enough. There were some very smart law students in Arkansas, then as now. He also had a brush with history as a one-term legislator. His career was cut short by his stand against Orville Faubus's forceful (and illegal) opposition to school segregation in 1957. He told me that Faubus took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash contributions for campaigns but never a penny for himself. Faubus died in modest circumstances. Harlin admired at least that much about the old man who was, like all of us, a prisoner of his times. Harlin worked for a time as a textbook salesman in Arkansas and Louisiana. He said sales were won by who greased the most palms. In California, Harlin was very much on the side of good government, serving as treasurer of many campaigns in order to help them not run afoul of modern-era campaign spending regulations.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for clarifying that point about Harlin's bar exam score. Thanks also for the details on his brush with history. I knew he had opposed segregation (Faubus was against integration, of course, as you know), but I hadn't gotten the full story. Grandpa Perryman (Harlin's father) wanted Harlin to stay in Arkansas and run again, but Harlin preferred the sidelines, from where he could observe and reflect. I think he also wanted to blaze his own trail through life and thus needed to leave Arkansas.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:34 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


I'm not sure if you are still monitoring this site or not. I only saw Uncle Harlin a handful of times during my life, but that was enough to know what a remarkable man he was. I was actually searching for some stuff on Mom (Hala's) obituary and the "wonder" that is the internet led me somehow to your posting.
Mom always talked fondly of her visit with Aunt Gay to Korea. I hope you are well.

Scott Ferguson

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Scott, I'm glad you dropped by. Do you know what became of that old photo of Grandma as a young woman holding your mother, who was just a baby? I'd like to get a copy, if possible.

Jeffery Hodges

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