Former Morehouse acting president, Wiley Perdue, dies of cancer at 82

Oct 06, 2017
  • By Shelia M. Poole
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wiley A. Perdue (center) with the late Dr. Hugh M. Gloster Sr., former president of Morehouse College, and Perdue’s grandson, Christian A. Perdue. CREDIT: Alisa Perdue

Wiley A. Perdue used to keep index cards on students who visited his office at Morehouse College.

On the cards, he wrote information about each student, what they needed and how he could help.

In doing so, Perdue, the former vice president of business and finance and, later, acting president of the historically black college, could always keep track of their needs and achievements.

“Sometimes students would come back years later and Daddy was able to pick up from their last conversation as if it happened yesterday,” said his daughter Alisa Perdue of Columbia, S.C. “They would wonder how he could remember them. He wanted every student to know he had not forgotten them. That was his personal touch.”

Perdue, 82, died Sunday of cancer while in hospice care in Lizella.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Friendship Baptist Church, 80 Walnut St. S.W. in Atlanta.

Perdue was beloved among Morehouse students, whom he treated as extended family, said his daughter. If a student’s finances for college came up short, he would figure out a way to help him continue his education.

He grew up and started his education in a one-room school house and church built by his grandfather in in Jones County.

“He felt education was the cornerstone to your success, especially as an African American,” Alisa Perdue said. “Education meant everything.”

Growing up in rural Georgia, Perdue was one of eight children of Augustus George Perdue Jr. and Tommie Clowers Perdue. He raised rabbits, fattened them up and then sold them to raise money that would later be used to pay for schooling, keeping the money in a shoe box, said Alisa Perdue.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College in 1957 and his master’s in business administration from Atlanta University.

He studied also at Ohio State , American and Indiana universities. He was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and held an honorary doctorate degree from Dillard University. He taught economics and business administration at Savannah State University, where he also later held positions of registrar, director of admissions and director and operator of the computer center.

While working at Savannah State, Perdue was approached by then Morehouse President Hugh M. Gloster about returning to his alma mater in the business office. He joined the Morehouse staff as registrar in 1969.

He rose through the ranks at Morehouse, becoming the vice president of business and finance before almost a year-long stint as acting president in 1994.

He led the university from Oct. 1, 1994, to Aug. 13, 1995, between the tenures of presidents Leroy Keith and Walter Massey.

His daughter said he was the glue that held the family together. He and his wife, Kay Stripling Perdue, would often let relatives stay in their home while they attended college in Atlanta. “Family was really important to him,” she said. “He always found the best in everyone and encouraged family and students in a lot of ways. He wanted us to be the best that we could be.”

“I owe who I am as a man to him,” said Francis Sulton, his second cousin and a retired engineer. “I wasn’t the best kid growing up and when I came to Morehouse he made sure I did everything I needed to do. If I needed to talk to someone he was always there. If I needed guidance he was always there. He was the wise man who leadeth me.”

Sulton, who called his cousin “Mr. Perdue” on campus, used to hang out with the guys in an area behind neighboring Spelman College. One day, Sulton found a note in his mailbox from Perdue that warned him that was not a good place to hang out. “Do what you want, but it doesn’t look good for you,” the note read.

Sulton followed his advice. A few weeks later police came through “and cleaned the place up. He never made me feel like it was fussing. He talked to me like a man, but he had no problem telling me what he thought. I will value that all of my life.”

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Kay S. Perdue of Atlanta; daughter Alisa D. Perdue of Columbia, S.C.; and grandson Christian A. Perdue of Atlanta. Other survivors include his brothers Harold L. Perdue Sr. (Carol) of Macon and Tommie Perdue (Joy) of Las Vegas.

The family requests that donations be made to the Morehouse College General Scholarship Fund in lieu of flowers. Checks payable to Morehouse College; on the “memo” line write “General Scholarship Fund/Memory of Wiley Perdue,” and mailed to Morehouse College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 830 Westview Drive, SW, Atlanta, Ga. 30314. Or go online and make a gift at Select “Make a Gift Online,” choosing the designation drop down option “General Scholarship Fund.”