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Memorials: Pima Monthly Meeting

David Perkins

Date of birth

May 8, 1934

Date of death

Sept. 4, 2020


Pima Monthly Meeting

Memorial minute

As a devoted Quaker, David Perkins believed active love and concern can overcome hate and  hostility. He believed Friends were not a separate denomination, but a part of the Blessed  Community with boundless intimate connections. David became a member of Friends Meeting  of Washington (DC) in 1948. He transferred his membership to Pima Monthly Meeting (Tucson)  in 1993. 

David was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Walter Morris Perkins and Mary Lee Korns. His parents  were in the Washington (DC) Pacifists Fellowship. As a young boy, David remembers their  meetings at his home. Members included James Farmer, Bayard Rustin, A. J. Muste, and Wally  & Juanita Nelson. He married Sabina Acevedo Gomez on 29 July 1959 at the Mexico City  Monthly Meeting. The couple have three children: Philip, Esther, and David Richard (Rick). 

David recalled that while in elementary school during World War II he bought Civilian Public  Service (CPS) stamps at the Meetinghouse to aid CPS workers instead of buying war bonds or participating in scrap paper drives to support the war at school. He had memories of being beat up by school mates and other abuse suffered from this choice. His parents divorced when he was in junior high, making money tight for his mother. Fortunately, his great uncle told him about his alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan College, where ROTC was voluntary, not compulsory as in other colleges. In addition, David received a scholarship, and graduated in 1955 with a Bachelor in Arts degree.  

Before he graduated from college, he heard A.J. Muste speak about holy disobedience. He was  influenced, also, by a personal conversation with Bayard Rustin on civil disobedience. His  confusion about draft registration was lifted and he was convinced to register as a conscientious  objector (CO) and dedicated his life to the work of AFSC. While in college, he worked with an  AFSC service unit at a mental institution. When he inquired about working for AFSC for his CO  status, his draft board agreed. His CO work was in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, a village north of  Mexico City. There he built more secure buildings with homemade bricks, replacing existing  brush houses. In addition to meeting his wife, he developed an insight that those who live closest to the level of survival understand best that life necessitates love and sharing. 

As he continued his work with AFSC, he secured positions in Arizona, working first at the White  Mountain Apache Reservation as an elementary teacher from 1958 to 1963. In the summers, he  studied at the University of Arizona and in 1967 earned his first Master’s degree in Latin  American Studies. During his studies, he was offered a scholarship, but refused it since he  would be required to sign a loyalty oath. He did community development work at the San Carlos  Apache Reservation from 1963 to 1967, and then taught school in Solomon, Arizona from 1967  to 1973. This job was put in jeopardy because he objected to signing the Arizona teachers’ loyalty oath required for employment in the state.

Apart from his teaching duties, he did volunteer work for various community projects in Graham  County. During his community work, he met officials from Greenlee County who were  sufficiently impressed with his work that they offered him a job as the first County Administrator  of Greenlee County. Although the requirement for his appointment was to sign a loyalty oath, he  crossed out the word “pledge” and was accepted as a member. He served from 1973-1984.  

During his work as an administrator, he received recognition for his work with the Health  Systems Agency (HSA) from Governor Bruce Babbitt. The HSA program enabled people to  receive health care regardless where they lived. From 1984-1988, he worked as an Assistant County Administrator for Yuma County. 

When he retired and relocated to Tucson, he volunteered a lot of his time working in Sonora,  Mexico at the AFSC work camps established and run by Norman and Exelee Krekler. He later  volunteered with AFSC Arizona concerning immigrant rights and border issues. He earned his  second Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Arizona in 1993.  

David attended Pima Meeting regularly for worship, sharing messages that came from his deep  belief in non-violence and universal love. For many years, he was either a member or the clerk of  the Meeting’s Peace and Social Concerns Committee. David often called us to be better Quakers. He shared many insightful articles in PMM’s newsletter about the history of non-violence. 

David felt serendipity helped him follow the leadings of the Spirit throughout his life. Such serendipitous and fortunate events occurred when he had a heart attack at the gym. He survived his heart attack through the confluence of the gym having a defibrillator, the man exercising on the treadmill next to him being a paramedic, and the hospital being nearby.  

As the late Senator John Lewis and David would say, “Love is the most powerful force on  earth,” and by such David Perkins lived his life.