Perkins to pursue District 7 seat

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Former Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., will announce his candidacy Friday for the 7th District congressional race.

Perkins’ campaign released a notice Monday morning that he will make his announcement at 9 a.m. at the Federal Building in Selma. The rumor mill had churned out the news as early as two weeks ago, but Perkins declined to comment on the race, saying he’d talk the day he made his announcement.

He is the second person with Selma ties to seek the office. Terri Sewell, a Selma native and Birmingham attorney, announced her bid for the seat earlier this year. Both Perkins and Sewell are Democrats.

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Incumbent Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, will leave an open race. Davis is seeking the Alabama governor’s post being vacated by Bob Riley, who cannot under state law seek re-election.

Perkins made history in 2000 when Selma voters elected him the first African-American mayor. He served two terms. He sought re-election to a third term in 2008, but was defeated by George Evans, a former school superintendent.

Perkins has worked in the business world, having seen employment at Caterpillar Tractor Co. in Peoria, Ill. as a computer programmer and systems analyst during the early-to-late 1970s. He was hired by Martin Marietta Corp. in the late 1970s as a project manager. In 1980, Perkins founded Business Ventures Inc., a technology information company.

The former mayor has served as a member of the Drug Advisory Council to the Selma public school system, the New South Coalition, on the Board of Directors of the Auburn University African-American Enterprise Commission and the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority.

In 2000, Perkins was elected mayor, defeating 10-term mayor Joseph T. Smitherman, using the slogan “Joe’s Gotta Go!” Perkins received 57 percent of the vote. It was the third time Perkins had run against Smitherman.

He is the son of James and Etta Smith Perkins. His father was an elementary school principal. He is married to Cynthia Page. Perkins has four children.

Perkins earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Alabama A&M University and worked on a graduate degree at Auburn University.