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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