1,000 miles from Lawndale, the good life beckons Eddie

Chicago Sun-Times Sept. 19, 1969

by John Adam Moreau

The distance is 1,000 miles from Chicago’s Lawndale area, where the people stand around waiting for the buildings to fall down, to Hanover, N.H., where it is lovely and young men live in hope.

For Edward Marion Perry, a black man who was a founder of the street gang that became the Conservative Vice Lords, the distance could be figuratively much more or much less than that.

Perry, who is known to many as Eddie or by the nickname Peppilow, sets out Saturday to enter Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution with 3,600 students and strong traditions.

Until recently, the Hanover institution was as white racially as the snow that usually covers the campus from fall to spring, as white as its beautiful Georgian structures which date to the 18th Century.

Now, however, Dartmouth is among the institutions that seek to redress the country’s racial history by going out of the way to bring exceptional blacks to its halls.

There are 80 or so blacks now at Dartmouth, including two other members of the Conservative Vice Lords.

Twelve of the blacks at Dartmouth are from programs at the Central YMCA Community College and Eddie makes the 13th. At Dartmouth, he will be part of a Foundation Year program run by the college and supported by alumni. Of the participants in the two-year-old project, 17 of the 18 this academic year will be Chicago Negroes.



 


Why the distance between Chicago and Hanover could be figuratively more or less than the road map miles is simple. Perry fears the competition, he admits, and worries about his academic capability.

On the other hand, he said in an interview at YMCA Community College, where he has done academic catch-up work since 1967, he’s had such a strong, rewarding taste of the good life and what academic credentials can bring, that he is hungry for Dartmouth.”My two friends from the Lords,” Perry said, “Tiny Evans and Henry Jordan. Well, they went up there and they were just dynamite. They burned it up and I know I can do just as well.

“I want that degree. I’ve seen what it can get.”
The Foundation Year program will permit Perry and his fellow students to take fewer courses while they and the college learn whether they like college, whether they want to stay at Dartmouth, indeed whether they are college material.

“I’m not going to Dartmouth to be a savior or something for the black people, come back and lead the people and stuff,” Perry said. “I’m going ‘cause I want to come back here, Chicago, and have a good life, build a family.”

Not many years ago, Eddie said, he probably wouldn’t have given Dartmouth a second thought, had the chance been offered.

“The whites,” he said, meaning society, “taught me to believe I was second-rate. I believed it for a long time but I don’t now.”

By telephone from Hanover, Paul Rahmeier, co-coordinator of Foundation Year, confirmed that Evans and Jordan had indeed done well. In fact, Jordan lived in France last year.

“What they bring here,” Rahmeier said, “is a maturity that most college students don’t have. They’ve seen stuff these other kids don’t even know about."