Charles Austin Perry Jr., founder of the Charles A. Perry Co., which became one of the marine industry’s leading manufacturing rep firms, died Dec. 10. He was 90.
Perry loved the marine industry, but his earliest love was flying. At age 10, his uncle, J.P. Holland, taught him to fly. “It was that experience that ignited Charlie's life-long passion for flying,” noted his obituary. “He soloed and obtained his pilot's license at age 16, a feat virtually unheard of at that time. Shortly thereafter, and combining his passion for flying with his emerging and life-long talent for salesmanship, Charlie told his high school friends to ‘meet me at the hayfield after school,’ where he took them aloft in a rented plane, at $1 a head, making his first of many entrepreneurial profits.”
Perry earned a football scholarship to Georgia Tech, but a knee injury ended his sports career. He graduated in 1951 with a degree in business management and completed Navy ROTC training.
“Stationed aboard the USS aircraft carrier the Coral Sea, he quickly proved his mettle and many talents to his commanding officers,” stated the obituary. “Despite failing an initial hearing test, the ship's Commander … pulled a few strings to get him admitted to flight school in the Navy. As if releasing a captured bird to flight, Charlie soared. He was an instructor pilot at NAS Jacksonville for two years, and thereafter qualified and flew as a fighter pilot.”
Perry had more than 100 successful landings on carriers, over 20 of them at night and some in weather so bad that he could barely see the landing signal officer in what he called "controlled crashes."
After leaving the Navy in 1957, Perry moved to Jacksonville, Fla., and started Charles A. Perry Co. He grew his manufacturer’s rep business to the largest sales enterprise in the United States at the time.
“It brought him great joy years later to see his son Charles, and grandson Austin, carry on and continue the family business, where it continues today,” the obituary stated.