Joseph Sam Perry

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Joseph Sam Perry
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
In office
November 29, 1971 – February 18, 1984
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
In office
August 22, 1951 – November 29, 1971
Appointed byHarry S. Truman
Preceded byElwyn Riley Shaw
Succeeded byWilliam Joseph Bauer
Personal details
Joseph Samuel Perry

(1896-11-30)November 30, 1896
Carbon Hill, Alabama
DiedFebruary 18, 1984(1984-02-18) (aged 87)
Winfield, Illinois
Political partyDemocratic
ResidenceGlen Ellyn, Illinois
EducationUniversity of Alabama (A.B.)
University of Chicago School of
Social Service Administration
University of Chicago Law School (J.D.)

Joseph Samuel Perry (November 30, 1896 – February 18, 1984) was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Carbon Hill, Alabama, Perry was the son of a coal miner named Jack Perry, and Mary Elizabeth Brown. He worked on local farms and in area coal mines before joining the United States Navy and serving in Europe during World War I.[1] After the war, he returned home to finish high school. Perry then earned an Artium Baccalaureus degree Phi Beta Kappa in 1923 from the University of Alabama and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in 1925. He earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1927.[2]

Professional career[edit]

Perry worked in private law practice in Chicago, Illinois from 1928 until 1933, when he began working as a master in chancery in DuPage County, Illinois and as a private lawyer in Wheaton, Illinois. In 1936, Perry was elected to the Illinois Senate as a Democrat from the 41st district. He served from 1937 until 1943 and served as a floor leader for Governor Henry Horner. He served in the Illinois Militia from 1942 to 1944. In 1943, Perry returned to private law practice in Wheaton. He was the last Democrat from DuPage County to serve in the Illinois Senate until Tom Cullerton of Villa Park seventy years later. After World War II, Perry was unsuccessful in efforts to be elected as a state senator and a congressman, largely because he was a Democrat in heavily Republican DuPage County. Perry remained a lawyer in Wheaton until he became a federal judge in 1951. Perry also worked from 1949 until 1951 as DuPage County's public administrator.[2]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Perry was nominated by President Harry S. Truman on July 13, 1951, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois vacated by Judge Elwyn Riley Shaw. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 21, 1951, and received his commission on August 22, 1951. He assumed senior status on November 29, 1971. His service terminated on February 18, 1984, due to his death.[2]

Notable cases[edit]

During his tenure, Perry presided over a large number of high-profile trials, including an 18-month-long wrongful-death suit initiated by the survivors and family members of two members of the Black Panther Party who were killed during a 1969 raid on the group's headquarters. At the end of the trial, which at that time was the longest trial before a federal court jury in United States history, Perry dismissed all charges against law enforcement officials who had been sued for $47 million in a wrongful-death suit when jurors could not reach a verdict. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit eventually overturned Perry and ordered a new trial, but an out-of-court settlement eventually was reached.[1]

Mastodon discovery[edit]

On October 16, 1963, a man named Marshall Erb (1910–1989) was excavating a pond in the back yard of Perry's house, at 683 Riford Road in Glen Ellyn, Illinois when Erb found a large, 42-inch bone.[3] The bone was taken to a geologist at Wheaton College in nearby Wheaton, who judged it to be the fossilized bone of a prehistoric mastodon that became extinct more than 8,000 years ago. Diggers uncovered more bones, and Perry then gave Wheaton College permission to excavate the site. Geologists eventually found more than 100 of the mastodon's 211 bones, including the complete skull with well-preserved teeth.[3] Geologists eventually reassembled the mastodon skeleton, and it is now on display at Wheaton College's Meyer Science Center.[4][5]

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County purchased much of Perry's 10-acre (40,000 m2) estate in 1995 for $312,500.[6]


Perry died on February 18, 1984, at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois.[1] Perry was survived by his wife, Nelle, and two children.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Joseph Samuel Perry at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  3. ^ a b "DEC63.htm".
  4. ^ "MYSTERIOUS WORLD: Winter 1998: Fragments".
  5. ^[dead link]
  6. ^[dead link]


Legal offices
Preceded by
Elwyn Riley Shaw
Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Succeeded by
William Joseph Bauer