Mosby Garland Perrow, Jr. (born March 5, 1909, – May 31, 1973) was a Virginia lawyer and state senator representing Lynchburg, Virginia . A champion of Virginia's public schools, Perrow became a key figure in Virginia's abandonment of "Massive Resistance" to public school desegregation, including by chairing a joint legislative committee colloquially known as the Perrow Commission.
Perrow was born in Lynchburg, Virginia to Dr. Mosby G. Perrow and Louise Polk (Joynes) Perrow. Perrow graduated from E.C. Glass High School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington and Lee University. As a student, he was involved in campus politics and spearheaded Lewis F. Powell, Jr.'s winning bid for student body president. Perrow received his law degree from Duke University.
On June 24, 1938, Perrow married Katherine Duane Wingfield of Lynchburg. They had three children: Duane Payne (Mrs. Wistar Palmer Nelligan), Mosby Garland Perrow III, and Edmund Wingfield Perrow.
The Perrow family lived in the Fort Hill neighborhood of Lynchburg and at Staunton View Farm in Campbell County, Virginia.
Perrow practiced law in Lynchburg as a partner with the law firm of Perrow and Rosenberger. He was an active member of Memorial United Methodist Church, and a member of the board of directors of several private corporations and belonged to various civic organizations in the Lynchburg area. He enjoyed his time on his farm overlooking the Staunton River raising crops, hogs, and briefly, black angus.
Perrow was elected to the Virginia Senate from the 12th Senatorial District in 1943 and served continuously until 1964. He was active in local and state Democratic Party circles for many years and was a leading advisor to several Virginia governors. His committee assignments included Rules, Finance, County, City and Town, Organization, Moral Social and Town Welfare. His special committee assignments included the Denny Commission, which paved the way for improving the state's school system; the Commission to Study the Home for Needy Confederate Women, and the Virginia Advisory Legislative Council.
After a three-judge federal court and the Virginia Supreme Court both ruled on January 19, 1959 (Robert E. Lee's birthday) that Virginia's school-closing laws (part of the Stanley plan to block school desegregation) were unconstitutional under both the federal and state constitutions, Governor James Lindsay Almond Jr. initially vowed to continue Massive Resistance, but soon decided not to defy the courts but instead limit the degree of integration. He thus appointed Perrow chairman of the Virginia School Commission which became known as the "Perrow Commission". Although powerful Senator Harry F. Byrd was stunned and would not admit defeat, attorney general Albertis Harrison defended the governor's shift toward accommodation. Moreover, the Perrow Commission included four members from each congressional district, unlike the earlier Gray Commission which was weighted toward Southside Virginia.
Following extensive public hearings and debate, the Perrow Commission issued a report that stated, in part, "The Commission is opposed to integration and offers the program set out herein because it thinks it is the best that can be devised at this time to avoid integration and preserve our public schools." The report further describes a "local option" plan that included new pupil placement laws, a new compulsory attendance law, and tuition grants that could be used at what came to be known as "segregation academies"--similar to the former Gray plan. On the eve of the senate's vote on adopting the recommendations of the Perrow Commission's report, five thousand people (mostly from Southside Virginia) gathered in Richmond's Capital Square, condemning Governor Lindsay Almond and Lieutenant Governor Stephens for their support of the Perrow Commission's recommendations and for betraying the Massive Resistance movement. Former Perrow Commission member George M. Cochran later recalled how, after four hours of debate, the House approved the House bill reported from the Education Committee 54 to 45, leading to final passage 54 to 46. On the Senate side, an anti-Perrow Commission majority controlled the Senate Education Committee, so Almond's allies employed a parliamentary device to permit the entire Senate rather than just that small committee to vote on the pupil assignment bill. To break a deadlocked Senate, however, supporters needed the tie-breaking vote of Senator Stuart B. Carter of Fincastle in Botetourt County. Carter had opposed the tuition assistance aspects of the Gray plan, but had recently undergone major surgery. Undeterred, the pro-Perrow faction found Carter and wheeled him into the Senate chamber to cast the decisive favorable vote. The bill passed 20 to 19. The following day, on the same 20 to 19 vote, the Senate approved the local pupil assignment bill.
The 1959 special session established a permanent fissure in the Byrd Organization, "embittering old friends toward one another." The senate's passage of the "local option" helped trigger the now-seemingly inevitable decline and fall of Massive Resistance, but Perrow paid a political price. He lost his support within the Byrd Organization, which defeated him in the 1963 Democratic primary needed for reelection. Perrow was later appointed president of the Virginia State Board of Education.
Perrow fought to reroute the long-planned interstate highway now known as I-64 between Clifton Forge and Richmond from its "northern route" through Charlottesville to a "southern route" that would include Lynchburg. Since the 1940s, maps of the federal interstate highway system depicted the interstate taking a northern route, but Virginia had received assurances from the federal government that the final location of the route would be decided by the state. The proposed southern route called for the interstate to follow from Richmond via US-360 and US-460, through Lynchburg to Roanoke and US-220 from Roanoke to Clifton Forge. Accordingly, the southern route would have supported a greater percentage of Virginia's manufacturing and textile centers at that time. In 1959, a report championed by Perrow succeeded in persuading a majority of Virginia Highway Commissioners to support the southern route. In a surprise defeat for both Perrow and Lynchburg, however, both Governor Almond Jr. and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Luther H. Hodges, Sr. announced in July 1961 that the route would not be changed from the originally proposed northern route.
Perrow's family was French Huguenot, and came to the American Colonies from England in 1707, settling in Old Manakin near Richmond. Perrow was the great grandson of Captain William C. Perrow of Campbell County, Virginia, who served in the Mexican–American War, and the grandson of Fletcher C. Perrow who served in the Civil War in Company G Second Virginia Cavalry. Three of Fletcher's four brothers also fought for the Confederacy: Alexander Perrow, Stephen Perrow who rode with Col. John S. Mosby's rangers, and Willis Perrow who was a courier for General Robert E. Lee at the age of fourteen. Perrow's father Dr. Mosby G. Perrow (1876–1943) was Director of Public Health and Welfare for the City of Lynchburg.
Perrow's papers are held at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.