Saturday, August 29, 2015

Still more on Uncle Harlin - and his Life among the Birds

National Audubon Society

In the Sacramento Audubon Society's newsletter, The Observer (Volume 67, No. 6, July/August 2015), there's a lovely obituary on Uncle Harlin titled "In Memorium: Harlin Jackson Perryman," (pdf) and I learned some details about him that I didn't know, along with a refresher on several that I did know:
Harlin was born in Zion, Arkansas August 13, 1927. He got his father's signature to enter the Navy the day after he graduated from Salem High School. The GI Bill meant he would be able to [study later and even] get his PhD. However, he got homesick [in graduate school at Penn State] and returned to the University of Arkansas to attend law school. He was elected to the State Assembly during the troubled mid-1950s.
Uncle Harlin's father was the very man who - along with Harlin's mother - raised me and my four brothers. His name was Henry Jefferson Perryman, and he was our grandpa. Identifying Uncle Harlin as "homesick" is a polite term for "mistreated" (by his Penn State adviser, who thought all Southerners were ignorant rednecks, and Harlin had an Ozark accent, which he retained his entire life). The "troubled mid-1950s" refers to Arkansas's reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. Harlin was against the segregationist Governor Faubus and on the side of integration.
He graduated law school and traveled the United States to find a place to live. He finally settled on California. Alaska was a very close second.
He told his mother - my grandma, who told me - that he couldn't get used to the "midnight sun" in Alaska, which was one reason he moved south to California.
In California he met and married Betty Baldwin. She had children and the whole lot became a family. He bumped along through life and did the normal things of retiring, becoming a "Grandpa," and moving to Sacramento.
That little bit covers a lot of territory. He worked as a lawyer, became a wine expert, played a lot of chess, and rose to the position of Treasurer in California's Democratic Party, among other things. He was considered for nomination to the Supreme Court of California way back in the late 1970s, early 1980s, but Governor Jerry Brown didn't like him and refused to support him.
[In] February 1997[,] . . . his step-daughter Melody Baldwin took him on a Sacramento Audubon trip. He fell in love with the birds and the whole process of watching and identifying birds. He met Tim Fitzer and an 11 year old boy named Dan Williams. They encouraged him to come on other trips. Over the next 28 years he would brag that he had gone on more trips than anyone else in one particular year . . .
What follows in the obituary are the events of Harlin's life among the birds, which is about the time I lost contact with him, but the length of that lost contact was 18 years, not the typo 28 (check the math: 1997-2015). For the details of his Audubon life, click on over to the newsletter (pdf) and read more.

I hope more folks who knew Harlin will leave comments there . . .

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At 9:43 AM, Blogger Shannon Hodges said...

I have always been proud that our grandparents-Harlin's parents-saw through the fig leaf of segregation and taught pluralism. I miss all three of these amazing people. Anyone unfamiliar with the rural south of the Jim Crow era likely won't understand how progressive Harlin and his parents were.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Harlin remained progressive on race relations, though he had an underlying pessimism about human nature generally, but he also had a genial sense of humor that softened the sharp edges of that pessimism.

Jeffery Hodges

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