Huey Perry, a nationally recognized native of Gilbert, Mingo County, will discuss his published works in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, on Thursday, Apr. 21. The program begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Perry’s first book, “They’ll Cut Off Your Project: A Mingo County Chronicle” (Praeger Publishing, 1972), looks at local politics and a War on Poverty project in southern West Virginia in the 1960s. In the book, Perry reveals his efforts to help the poor of an Appalachian community challenge a local regime. He describes this community’s attempts to improve school programs and conditions, establish cooperative grocery stores to bypass inflated prices, and expose electoral fraud, which led to a hostile backlash. “They’ll Cut Off Your Project” chronicles the triumphs and failures of the War on Poverty, illustrating why and how a local government that purports to work for the public’s welfare cuts off a project for social reform. It was listed as one of the top 10 political books of the year by “Saturday Review.”
“Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry” (Praeger Publishing, 1974), his second book, tells the story of the stripper from West Virginia who had a blatant affair with Louisiana Governor Earl Long. Born Fanny Belle Fleming in Wilsondale, Wayne County, Starr managed to escape the poverty of her youth and rose to fame as a well known stripper and burlesque comedian. The book was eventually made into a movie, “Blaze,” starring Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovitch.
Perry began his career as a high school teacher in Mingo County, teaching American history, journalism, political science and German. He served as recorder and mayor of Gilbert and in 1965 became the first executive director of the Mingo County Economic Opportunity Commission, with more than 350 employees who worked to assist the poor and impact their lives. In 1967, he served as a full-time consultant for three months to Robert Weaver, secretary of HUD, to develop the Neighborhood Centers Program in 14 major cities. He also has been an inventor and businessman.
Perry obtained his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Berea College where he was vice president of the student association. In 1958, he received a master’s degree in political science from Marshall University.
For additional information about the Archives and History lecture series, contact the Archives and History Library at 304-558-0230.
Patrons may park behind the Culture Center after 5:30 p.m. on Apr. 21 and enter the building at the back loading dock area. The new bus turnaround is open, and handicapped spots are available there. Visitors parking there should enter the doors at the front of the building.
The WV Division of Culture and History is an agency within the WV Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, cabinet secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.