207. Rev Henry Perry

How would you want to help your community?

Seeing Black children denied entrance to the YMCA and other Kokomo recreational facilities, the Rev. Henry Perry saw injustice. He determined to make a place in Kokomo where any child could play.

Perry was born in Alabama in 1887. He attended the Tuskegee Institute where he became friends with one of his teachers, Dr. George Washington Carver. He went on to earn a divinity degree from Gammon Seminary in Atlanta, a teaching degree from Indiana State Teachers College and his master’s degree from Ball State University. Perry moved to Kokomo in the 1920s to work as pastor at Wayman Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A few years later he became principal of Douglass Elementary School, where he remained for 20 years.

Perry began pushing for development of recreational opportunities and sites for the Black community as early as 1929. The proposal took years to gain traction and Perry credited the final, successful push to a March 1940 visit to Douglass School by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The visit became front page news in the Kokomo Tribune and other newspapers for days. Subsequently, Perry was quoted as saying, “Douglass School is in the limelight. It’s all right to be popular, but let us use our popularity to get the Negro youth of Kokomo an adequate place for recreation.”

When Perry wrote his mentor Dr. Carver for permission to name the new center after him, Carver promptly gave his blessing and the Carver Community Center opened to all people in June 1948. Perry passed away in 1967 and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. 

From its beginning, Carver Center has promoted Perry’s ideals of health, education, and well-being. Today’s Carver Center still encourages those ideals through sports and arts programming and after-school activities such as tutoring and mentoring.

Have you or someone you know benefited from Perry’s work or someone else’s to build a place to come together?

Visit the Carver Center website 

Visit the Tuskeegee Institute website