The labelling of Perkins-on-line as "The thinking person's talk show" was no surprise to me. From as far back as the mid-1950s he implored me always to "think and take nothing on the surface".
We first met as co-workers at The Gleaner, and one day we were assigned to cover events aboard a ship in Kingston Harbour. It happened that the father of the captain was a man living in the St Andrew hills, and when he arrived to see his son, I realised that he was the kind person who had been very helpful to me one night when one of my car tyres got punctured on a dark and lonely country road. My spare tyre was flat, so I parked by a gate and decided to sleep until daylight. About an hour later this man came out from the house and on hearing of my problem, drove me to Papine, paid the shilling that it cost to repair the tyre and took me back to the car, using his flashlight to help me.
I related the story to Perkins and remarked on how very considerate the man was. Instead of agreeing with me, Motty responded with his inimitable laughter. "Considerate!" he exclaimed, "Considerate to you or to himself? He probably was uncomfortable to have this black man parked at his gate at night, so he removed you." Then followed another round of laughter, accompanied by the admonition, "You must think, Jimmy. Never take anything on the surface".
Motty loved to debate, and he armed himself by constantly being in The Gleaner library. When he was not at his desk writing, or on an assignment, he was in the library. The librarian, Mr Bibby Barton, took a liking to him, so Motty got all the books to read and eventually the hand of Bibby's daughter, Elaine. Thus, he became a successful man with a powerful wife beside him. Among those with whom he would debate was John Maxwell, and John, having lost a few debates with Perkins, armed himself with an encyclopaedia only to lose a few more debates. His encyclopaedia was in his hand; Perkins had his in his head.
Some people loved him, some people hated him. But all have reason to respect this icon of talk shows. He was known to be repetitious in some instances. For example, he frequently applauded the status of Jamaica's economy in the 1960s; and he would say again and again how Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore visited Jamaica and saw how well our economy was working. I am aware of one of the reasons he was moved to do so. I was the staff photographer for the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation at the time and I covered the events when Robert Lightbourne was showing and informing Lee Kwan Yew the growing industrialisation of Jamaica. Perkins was a reporter then.
He repeatedly advocated the use of solar energy in Jamaica and demonstrated his enthusiasm for it by setting up a solar plant at his home in Malvern several years ago when few were speaking about this energy-producing device.
Today, we mourn his passing as a talk show host, but to me he was more than talk. He was a great thinker. Jamaica is the poorer for his passing; and the best tribute we can all pay to his memory is to begin to "...think and not take things on the surface".
2 Tontine Place