Matthew Perry was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on August 3, 1921. Perry grew up in Columbia, and attended South Carolina State University, where he studied business administration. His education at S.C.S.U. was cut short, due to being called into the U.S. Army to fight World War II. It was during his time in the Army when Perry realized that African Americans were being denied their full rights as American citizens. After the war, he resumed his education at S.C.S.U., and decided to pursue a career in law. Perry felt that he could serve as a force for good with a law career, and discusses how he was inspired by Thurgood Marshall.
Upon graduating, Perry moved to Spartanburg to establish his law firm, and to begin the arduous process of achieving equal rights in S.C. Perry became actively involved with the S.C. NAACP.