Like his attorney dad, Paul C. Perkins Jr. always finds time for doing good
Published in 2023 Florida Super Lawyers magazine
By Alison Macor on June 21, 2023
Each time Paul C. Perkins Sr. spoke at Orlando’s Shiloh Baptist Church about raising money for various causes, his namesake would look on with pride. “He was always telling jokes and making everyone laugh,” says Paul C. Perkins Jr. “I didn’t even realize he was giving back.”
Perkins Sr. was a notable Orlando trial lawyer and civil rights activist. In the early 1950s, he and Thurgood Marshall defended four Black men wrongfully accused of sexual assault of a white woman in a case known as the Groveland Four. His sons, Paul and Byron, grew up to become lawyers as well. Perkins Jr. is known for securing high-stakes verdicts like a recent $7.5 million awarded to a client who lost a leg after a car struck his motorcycle.
“With privilege comes obligation,” says Perkins Jr. “That’s always something my brother Byron and I took to heart.”
Perkins’ giving focuses on education, mainly for Orlando-area schools, making learning accessible to as many people as possible. “I feel like I’m a child of both my parents,” says Perkins, 56. “My father was a lawyer and my mother was an educator.”
As a high school student at Trinity Preparatory in Winter Park, Perkins pursued art. At Morehouse College, however, he switched to political science and considered a career in foreign service. Taking the LSAT was a backup plan.
“My father died when I was 18, so I was going through all of these machinations without his advice,” Perkins relates. He found his people at the University of Florida College of Law in Gainesville. “I love lawyers. They are predisposed to consider the position and the opinions of others,” says Perkins. “They tend to be less stuffy than other professionals.”
Early on, Perkins was involved with the Ronald McDonald House and did prison ministry, primarily with then-law partner David Paul. As time went by, Perkins narrowed his focus to education. He and his wife, Andrea, whom he met in law school, have two grown children of their own, Gillian and George.
“I want to make sure the best quality education is available to everybody as much as possible,” says Perkins. His involvement with St. Andrew Catholic School, a K-8 facility serving a predominantly Black community in a low-income area of Orlando, illustrates his belief that education is the path to an equal playing field. At Trinity Prep, Perkins delivers annual “pep talks” to seniors about giving back to the school and has served on his alma mater’s board, focusing his efforts on raising funds to provide scholarships for Black and Latino students. He has also created a legacy at his law school, establishing a scholarship, along with fellow alumni and Florida attorneys Greg Francis and Yolanda Cash Jackson, for students from historically Black colleges and universities.
“I find that when I’m on a board or a committee that doesn’t speak to me, I’m not as effective,” he says. “I’ve decided that I’d rather go a mile deep and an inch wide.”
Tips for Giving
Paul C. Perkins Jr. doesn’t like to force philanthropy. “I’m not an in-your-face guy, telling people they ought to be doing this or that,” he says. When pressed, though, he shares a few things he’s learned by doing good works.
- There’s no wrong way. “If you have the motivation to give back, even if it’s for the wrong reasons—for the notoriety or to get more cases—at some point, you’ll realize that it’s about other things.”
- You will evolve as a giver. “Everybody’s life has seasons. A young lawyer who is 29 years old, their giving back is very different from my giving back.”
- You’ll take pride in yourself. Perkins is especially proud of his time on the board of Trinity Prep, and what they were able to accomplish, like hiring Trinity’s first Black head of schools.
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