Rex Perkins: A Biography

Rex Warren Perkins left his mark in the courtrooms of Arkansas and on the lives of all who knew him. Bold, articulate, and full of himself, he arrived at the University of Arkansas in 1928 with his fiddle, five dollars, and a blue serge suit. Within five years, he graduated law school, was elected to public office, and ran headlong into a federal grand jury. The biography of Rex Perkins documents his rise to fame as the preeminent trial attorney of the state and recounts the scandals, losses, and most famous cases of his thirty-year career.

“Of all the stories still told about Rex Perkins, none has enjoyed such ongoing and avid public interest as the murder trial of Virginia “Queenie” Rand. Mrs. Rand, an attractive brunette and wife of J. O. Rand, a prominent Rogers businessman, was charged with the crime of second degree murder for the killing of Harry V. “Buddy” Clark on August 9, 1959. Clark, married and father of two, was shot late at night in Virginia Rand’s bedroom.

“…In Mrs. Rand’s first trial, held in Benton County before the case involved Rex Perkins, Prosecutor Coxsey had faced defense attorneys Jeff Duty and his uncle Claude Duty. The jury for the Benton County trial found Mrs. Rand guilty, and her attorneys appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“The Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision in Rand v. State was delivered December 12, 1960. Their summary of the offense follows: It appears from the record that on the evening of August 8, 1959, the deceased, Clark, and his wife entertained Mr. and Mrs. Sam Davis in their home. At about 1:15 a.m. on August 9, Mr. and Mrs. Davis left the Clark home and at the same time Clark left in his car to check the receipts at the Horseshoe Grill, a café which he owned located some 8 blocks from the Clark home in Rogers. Although the evidence is somewhat uncertain, it is clear that Clark finished his work at the café and at 1:30 a.m. the night police radio operator received a call from a woman identifying herself as appellant, who said: “Send someone out here, I have had some trouble.” After the radio operator sent a patrolman to the Rand home, the appellant called again and said: “I have shot a man. I shot Buddy Clark.” Upon arrival at the Rand home, the patrolman was told by appellant that she shot Clark in her bedroom. The patrolman immediately went to the hospital where he found Clark on the floor in the hall. Nurses at the hospital testified that Clark came in the front door and fell to the floor. The records show he was admitted at 1:45 a.m. He expired at 4:17 a.m. that same morning.

“The patrolman testified he found tracks in the heavy dew going in and out of the Rand house and found a gun about 4 to 6 feet from these tracks. There were two bullet holes in the bedroom walls and 5 empty cartridges were found in the bedroom. The deceased was shot 4 times—3 times in the chest and one time in the right arm. No trace of blood was found in or around the Rand house but there was blood on the steering wheel and door of Clark’s automobile.

“Preserved in the Special Collections section of the library of the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the transcript of this trial runs 796 pages. After a review of the transcript index, librarian Kathryn Fitzhugh wryly observed that “everyone in town must have testified.” Such a massive body of information presented an enormous task to Justices Jim Johnson, J. McFaddin, and Ed. F. McFaddin in their work to review the case.”

The case was remanded back for retrial, at which point Rex Perkins managed to gain a change of venue. The rest of the story would take place at the Washington County courthouse where Perkins wielded all his legal maneuvering in support of Mrs. Rand. The outcome would shock the entire region.

Fascinating anecdotes, riveting legal challenges, and a personal story of this man, still a storied figure even in today’s legal community.

Paperback, $14.95, Amazon