Edward J. Perkins

  • Born: June 8, 1928
  • Died: November 7, 2020
  • Location:


Edward J. Perkins

First Black U.S. ambassador to South Africa

Edward J. Perkins was a diplomat who became the first Black U.S. ambassador to South Africa. For full obituary and coverage from Legacy.com, click here.

Condolence & Memory Journal


May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Posted by Matthew McGuire - Cheshire, CT   August 13, 2021

Ambassador Perkins - my cousin. I am saddened to hear of his death. He was a wonderful cousin and was loved and greatly respected by our family. We formed a special relationship after I learned of how his grandmother and my great grandfather were related. He made sure that I have an autographed copy of his book, Mr. President. My thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Posted by Audrey Lawrence - Virginia Beach, VA - family   December 28, 2020

My deepest condolences to Mr Perkins' family. A Great man that will be surely missed. V. PRATHER

Posted by Valenceia Prather - Fayetteville, PA - friend   December 23, 2020

Please accept my sincere condolences to the Perkins Family for your beloved father Mr. Edward J. Perkins (U.S. Ambassador to South Africa) and friend. May the love and the special memory you shared with your dad show how your life was touched by him. May the God of all comfort who is the hearer of prayers be with you in your time of need with his loving kindness and peace as He strengthens you to cope during this difficult time. May family, friends and extended family cherish his memories.

Posted by Tony - DC   November 30, 2020

The family has my sincere condolences for your loss. May peace and comfort follow you as you go through this difficult time.

Posted by Steele - AL   November 30, 2020

My condolences. There are not many words at a time like this, but we can pour out our hearts to God, whom is a refuge for us. When anxieties overwhelmed us, God can comforted and soothed us.

Posted by Mike - FL   November 29, 2020

In 1994 I spent a year in Australia on a Fulbright scholarship. One of the highlights of that trip was meeting Ambassador Perkins. He was gracious and kind and went out of his way to help me with my research on Aboriginal land rights. We stayed in touch over the years and I was fortunate to have a chance to meet his lovely wife when they came to San Francisco for an exhibition of paintings by Aboriginal artists.
I was very saddened to learn of his passing in the New York Times this morning. America has lost a hero, and my condolences go out to his family on their loss.

Posted by Patricia Steele - San Francisco, CA   November 28, 2020

A true pioneer, he will be greatly missed. RIP Sir Edward.

Posted by A friend   November 25, 2020

Ed was such a great friend and colleague of my late husband when they both were enrolled in the University of Southern California Washington Public Affairs Center, DC , as part of the school's first PhD doctoral class of students at that location. They remained in contact throughout the years as Ed's Ambassadorial assignments spanned the globe. Our family felt it was an honor to call Ed our friend. We have purchased a tree in his memory through McGuire Funeral Services.

Posted by Jane Pontius - Rockville, MD - friend   November 24, 2020

I would like to say this to your family and friends. Today I heard that Mr. Perkins passed away. When I was young I remember Mr. perkins working for america In his chosen field. As a young woman, growing up in New Orlean Ia., I was so proud to see a person of color with this position in government. Now that he has passed on to a restfull sleep, "WELL DONE".

Posted by Ms. Helen Martin - Saint Louis, MO   November 24, 2020

A life well lived...your family is so proud of you. Love you cousin

Posted by Martha Thomas Graham - Homer, LA - family   November 24, 2020

i am judy garrett and ed perkins was my neighbor in norman, oklahoma. he was so genuine and kind. i had him to dinner right before he moved to washington, dc and he brought us an autographed copy of his book. what a special night it was...........he told us about his career and his ring. when his wife was ill, my husband would go over and check her monitors. ed showed us all the collections in his home from his assignments and travels.we have exchanged christmas cards since he moved. i did not know he had died until linda thomas greenfield said he was her mentor and that he had passed away last week. what a force for justice and peace. my life is so much better because edward perkins crossed my path. blessings and peace to all his family

Posted by judy garrett - norman, OK - neighbor   November 24, 2020

We are simply admirers in Norman, Ok of Ambassador and Mrs. Perkins and were lucky enough to. buy their home when they departed Oklahoma for Washington, DC in 2009. Wonderful people, valued leaders at OU and many other important posts around the world. We join many others here in the midland who are sadden by this great man's passing and his wonderful wife before him.

Posted by cal hobson - norman, OK - friend   November 24, 2020

My condolences go out to the Perkins family. So sorry for your loss.

Posted by LeeRoy    November 24, 2020

Rest Well Peace Onward Ambassador Perkins. I had the pleasure of being under his auspices as the IFESH Fellow to Australia; he welcomed and parlayed useful advice on succeeding distinctly in the country and throughout SE Asia and The Pacific Islands. Thank you. Peace and Blessings to The Family.

Posted by A friend   November 24, 2020

Thoughts and prayers to the Perkins family, through your tears, may your memories bring you joy. May God be with all of you at such a difficult time, truly sorry for your loss.

Posted by R B    November 24, 2020

My condolences to the family. May the God of Comfort, continue to comfort the family, during these difficult times.

Posted by A friend   November 22, 2020

Such a humanitarian and genuine person, he will be greatly missed. I was impressed with his strength and courage, he truly changed American diplomacy forever. My condolences to his family and friends. I am praying that God gives them strength during this difficult time.

Posted by Erica Brown    November 22, 2020

He inspired me to go to college . I was the first one in my family to be college educated . I couldn't have made it without him. I am grateful beyond words. He will always be remembered by me and my family. I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Posted by A friend   November 22, 2020

Thoughts and prayers to the Perkins family.

Posted by A friend   November 22, 2020

May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief. Please accept my sincere condolences.

Posted by JE Sowell - Charlotte, NC   November 21, 2020

Prayers for the Perkins family, may God comfort and strengthen all of you in your time of sorrow.

Posted by A friend   November 21, 2020

Sincere condolences to the Perkins family, as you shed your tears over your loss, may your many memories bring you smiles too. May God be with you all in your time of need.

Posted by A friend   November 21, 2020

My sincere condolences to the Perkins family. May the God of all comfort provide you all the strength to cope with your

Posted by TD    November 21, 2020

My deepest condolences to the Perkins family, so very sorry for your loss. At this most difficult time for all you, may you draw comfort and strength from God to carry you through your sorrow.

Posted by A friend   November 21, 2020

It was an honor to have worked with Ambassador Perkins and to have had Ed (as he was known to me) and Lucy as my son’s (Gerrod) Godparents. I cannot believe he is gone. I talked with him around July; we had a luncheon planned as soon as I finished moving back to Maryland. My prayers to his daughters and other family members. I will be in touch with you.

Posted by Audrey Plummer Mayo - Waldorf, MD - friend   November 21, 2020

I had the good fortune to cross paths with Ambassador Perkins a number of times during my foreign service career - when I was control officer during his stop in Nigeria on a regional tour for the African Bureau, when he was Director General of the Foreign Service, and when he was ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Depite his imposing size and formidable reputation, he was particularly soft spoken and always genuinely interested in what you wanted to discuss with him. He was understanding of my needs and quick to offer praise when merited. His surviving family members will always be rightfully proud of his memory and their heritage.

Posted by Leon Weintraub - Washington, DC - coworker   November 20, 2020

Edward J. Perkins, Celebration of Life: In loving memory of a wonderful person.

Posted by Family Journal Editors - Summerville, SC - acquaintance   November 19, 2020

Edward J. Perkins, first Black U.S. ambassador to South Africa, we are so proud of you, and your service to our country. Our sincere thoughts and prayers to the Perkins family, friends, loved ones and colleagues.

Posted by Dr. Charles L. Singleton - Atlanta, GA - acquaintance   November 19, 2020

My condolences.

Posted by A friend   November 19, 2020

Deepest sympathy to Perkins family in this time of your dear loss, may you find comfort from the words of Isaiah 51:12 in this time of your dear loss.

Posted by A friend   November 19, 2020


Posted by Alishia - SC   November 18, 2020

I will surely miss my Dear Brother Ed Perkins. I brought him into Kappa, gave him a rough time, and loved him dearly. He will be sorely missed by the world he made safer and more peaceful and even more by those of us who embraced him in the Bond. I'll see you on the other side, Nupe!

Posted by L. Jackson Thomas II - Washington, DC - friend   November 18, 2020

I send my deepest condolences to the family for your loss. Mr. Perkins was a first in diplomacy and will be missed. At this difficult time, may God comfort and strengthen you.

Posted by Mary - Neighbor   November 18, 2020

If one wants to see the beauty of a soul, examine the life of Edward Perkins. He radiated warmth, love, integrity, intelligence, and compassion, living a life of immeasurable value to his fellow man. It was an honor to have known him. The Reverend and Mrs. James Manion

Posted by James Manion - Charles Town, WV - friend   November 18, 2020

My deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Perkins. May God comfort and strengthen all of you in your time of sorrow. He will because He is the God of all comfort.

Posted by patricia    November 18, 2020

Truly a legacy to treasure. May the family and love ones be comforted by the God of compassion and tender mercies.

Posted by Odette Wells    November 18, 2020

My indelible memory of Ed Perkins was in Australia when I was giving a talk in the Australian Parliament. I knew Ed from our joint USC involvement and had given him a reading list about Australia when he was appointed to the position. He enjoyed the combination of fiction and non fiction and my Australian friends told me that he understood the society early in his tenure. In fact, he was the subject of a cartoon in the Canberra newspaper.
I hoped to see Ed on that trip but was absolutely shocked to see him sitting in the front row of the Senate room in the Parliament when I arrived. It was great to see him and we had a good visit. We hadn't been in touch since his retirement but I always tried to find out how he was doing. He was an amazing person!

Beryl Radin

Posted by Beryl Radin - Washington,, DC - friend   November 17, 2020

I am so sorry about the loss of Ambassador Edward. The Perkins family has my deepest condolences. I pray that you will be surrounded continuously with love and support. And, as you go through this difficult time, may Almighty God give you everlasting comfort (2 Thess. 2:16).

Posted by Jenee    November 17, 2020

I was recently watching the program “The Five” on Fox News when Juan Williams brought up the life and passing of Ambassador Perkins. I was pleased to learn of the Ambassadors life. He was someone all Americans can be proud of and celebrate his life.
John Franklin
Denver, Colorado

Posted by John Franklin - Denver, CO   November 17, 2020

My condolences to the family of ambassador Perkins.. I'm honored to have met you for the short Lil time I got to know you.. You were such a humble soul.. Always very pleasant.. We here at Ingleside at Rock Creek miss you dearly.. May your soul Rest in peace and perpetual light shine on you sir...

Sign: Tamara Pinnock
Life Enrichment Associate
Ingleside at Rock Creek

Posted by Ingleside at creek - Washington, DC - friend   November 17, 2020


God Bless you and those who loved you.

Posted by Cindy Bruce - AVON PARK, FL - friend   November 17, 2020

I used to be Mr Ambassador caregiver
He was a very nice man , I am sad he passes away , may God gives him a better place

Posted by Elsie Doue - Hyattsville, MD - significant_other   November 17, 2020

Our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Edward . May you all find comfort in God’s promise of “reviving the heart of those being crushed in spirit “. Our prayers and thoughts are with you all the way during this difficult time.

Posted by Ezeko & Rossy - Lagos Nigeria   November 17, 2020

Ed and Lucy were friends with my mom and dad during their years in Bangkok. When I arrived in Washington DC to attend university in 1972, Ed and Lucy kindly hosted me for a few days till I could move into student housing. I offer condolences to their daughters.

Posted by James Reilly - Toronto, ON - friend   November 16, 2020

My condolences to his friends and family he was in a storical figure who made a difference in the world obstacles whenever a problem for him you're the strength of his ancestors may he rest in peace

Posted by David P Call - Served in Military together   November 16, 2020

I served with Ambassador Perkins in both Liberia and South Africa. In both assignments we had two mutual loves: we both loved the Foreign Service and the Marine Corps. On Friday nights we would often share our love for the Corps at the Marine House, the Country and the Foreign Service. He was a great credit to every organization he served—Semper Fi Ambassador Perkins

Posted by Peter Tharp - Millbrook, AL - coworker   November 16, 2020

I am Edwards first cousin. He was very inspiring.

Posted by Reathia Alexander - Houston, TX - family   November 16, 2020

May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived, and May the peace of God be with the family.

Posted by A friend   November 16, 2020

I was blessed to have met Ambassador Perkins, May God comfort the family, friends, Earth Has No Sorrow that Heaven Cannot Heal

Posted by Anne Brunson - Washington, DC - friend   November 16, 2020

Family Album

Edward J. Perkins