James Eric Perry was born October 23, 1961 to the late James O. and Cleo M. Perry in Henderson, NC. He was preceded in death by his beloved sister, Junetta "Kitti" Richardson of PA and nephew Eric Richardson of PA. He passed away peacefully, on April 13, 2019, with his wife Cheryl at his side.
As the youngest of three children, Eric was educated in the Warren County public school system and graduated from John Graham High School. While in high school, Eric excelled in Track (shot put), and football which was his favorite. After graduation Eric matriculated at North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina.
It was at N.C.C.U where Perry was a four year starter as a defensive tackle from 1981 - 1985, and Captain of the Eagles football team. It is also where the nickname “Mello Yello” was bestowed upon him, by teammates. Perry’s prowess on the field and overall athletic sportsman earned him a position on the Central Collegiate Athletic Association team two years consecutively.
It was while attending “Dear Ole N.C.C. he met and won the affection of Cheryl Hamilton. They were united in marriage on July 31, 1993.
As a youth, Eric joined the Manson Baptist Church in Manson, NC. He later joined Russell Memorial CME Church, where he served as an Associate pastor.
After graduating from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Communications, Eric began his career in education, teaching at C.A. Dillon in Butner, a state training center for juveniles. It was also during this time he rekindled his love of football by playing, semi-pro football for the Triangle Cardinals of Durham.
In 1989 while fostering his boyhood interest of weightlifting from Ebony Barbell Club, Henderson, N.C. ,he discovered his “untapped potential” in the sport of Powerlifting. Coupled with passion, diligence and discipline, which complimented his upbringing on a Warren County farm - he established himself as a Powerlifter. He quickly found success as a Powerlifter, winning the State Powerlifting Meet sponsored by the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association (ADFPA). Following the ADFPA meet success Perry won the United States Powerlifting Federation where his lifts totaled a remarkable 2050 lbs.
In 1991 Perry trained to gain a spot on the World’s Strongest Man Competition team in honor of his late friend and training partner O.D. Wilson. In 1992 he earned his invitation to the World’s Strongest Man contest in Iceland. He proved his worth by benching 600 pounds, pulling a 20,000 pound truck, and 37,000-pound plane. He said although he didn’t place first, the experience as a whole was more than this country boy could ever hope for. It set the tone for Perry to be back to his alma mater in 1993 as a Strength & Conditioning Coordinator for NCCU’s football team. This was a lifelong aspiration he had. In 1995 he became a certified Specialist in Sports Conditioning from the International Sports Sciences Association.
On February 12, 1996 Eric and Cheryl were blessed with a wonderful baby boy, Steven James Perry. Eric and Steven had a strong bond, and love that was unmatched.
He stopped powerlifting after the birth of Steven, but began a new endeavor as a Sumo Wrestler. He won five North American championships and was ranked among some of the best,
Eric’s blessed ambition to teach kids that others had given up on was fulfilled from teaching in Durham Public Schools, and later the Whitaker School. As a NC Certified Special Education and Physical Education Instructor he had over 25 years of service for the State of North Carolina.
He was a beacon of hope for people who faced insurmountable odds, through his contributions made to education in the North Carolina Public School System, philanthropic organizations in areas of fundraising and volunteerism, and human service organizations that work with mentally disabled populations, youth advocacy groups, and youth athletic programs.
To his credit, he was given the key to the city, by Durham County Board of County Commissioners, who established a Resolution on behave of his contributions. He appeared on Steve Harvey’s Big Time and Nickelodeon Games and Sports for ⓇKids. He was featured in local, national and international publications, The New Yorker, Journal De Tarde, Body Power, Sons of Samson volume 2 profiles, Duke Documentary Studies, World’s Strongest Bond.
He is survived by his wife, Cheryl Hamilton Perry, son Steven James Perry; his sister, Brenda Perry Bennett (Hayward,deceased) of Washington, DC; his mother-in-law Lee Hamilton of Williamsville, NY; his brothers-in-law, Steve Hamilton (Kathy) of Raleigh, NC, John Hamilton (Macy) of Lynchburg, VA; nieces Phaedra (Brian) Richardson, Nikeya Bennett-Thomas (Terrod) of Washington, DC, Kendall Hamilton of Raleigh, NC, Jessie Hamilton of Lynchburg, VA, Jett Hamilton of Lynchburg, VA; nephews, Jamar Bennett of Washington, DC, Alex Hamilton of Raleigh, NC, Eric Hamilton (Germany), John Hamilton of Lynchburg, VA, Justus Hamilton of Lynchburg, VA; six great nieces, Erica Datcher, DaPria Bennett, Aaliyah Thomas, Briana Richardson-Jones, Shereese Richardson and Cheyenne Bias; three great nephews, Eric Datcher Jr, Desean Bennett and Devonte Thomas; two great nieces, Kleo and Aliyah Datcher; two aunts, Wilma Allen, Clementine Scott of Boston, MA; two uncles, Alvin (Catherine) Fields of Henderson, NC, Lynwood (Doris) Fields of Boston, MA; a host of lifelong friends, and cousins whom will all miss him greatly.