By Alice Tisdale Perkins
“At this point in my life, I understand that I am a young Black man, young Black professional, young Black millennial, but also a person who people trust. I have vowed that every day of my life I will use my privilege in a positive manner, and I will use it for the poor, justice for the poor. My heart bleeds for the fathers and families in our west Jackson community.”
Rev. John Phillip Perkins, who served as lead pastor of Common Ground Covenant Church in Jackson, MS since its founding in 2014, spoke those words in August 2020. However, he embraced the whole gospel early on in his 37 years of life.
Big John, as he was affectionately known, not just for his towering stature but for his giant, servant heart, succumbed March 25, 2022, after a lengthy battle with liver disease. Born August 9, 1984 in Jackson, MS, he was the son of Phillip Lajon and Eva Quinn Perkins.
Funeral services will be held Friday, April 1 at 11 a.m. at New Horizon International Church, 1770 Ellis Ave., Jackson, MS. Westhaven Memorial Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
Big John’s love of community extended not only to feeding people’s spiritual needs but creating educational and employment opportunities through partnerships with local city departments, businesses, community service organizations, and churches throughout Mississippi and the nation, such as Central Community Church of God in west Jackson, pastored by Rev. Calvin D. Waddy Jr.; Walk of Faith Covenant Church in Mound Bayou, MS, pastored by Rev. Darryl Johnson; and Safety Harbor Covenant Church in Safety Harbor, FL, pastored by Rev. Andrew Larsen.
“Safety Harbor Covenant Church was blessed by the ministry of Big John Perkins. Our youth group was impacted by his Bible study, ‘Who is My Neighbor,’ while rehabbing a house in Jackson,” commented Rev. Larsen. “We were prayer partners as he was planting Common Ground. We will always be appreciative of his trip to Safety Harbor to speak to our members and a group of visiting students from Alaska Christian College.”
Big John’s labor of love was not in vain. Every day was harvest time for him to gather the lost, revive the Church, secure educational opportunities, provide affordable housing, and establish small businesses, thus far a barber/beauty shop and lawncare service, to create employment opportunities. He was founder/producer of the annual Taste of West Jackson, a gospel festival designed to showcase God’s abundant love through music, food, and fellowship. His praise team often performed at area churches and community events.
With John’s larger than life personality, it wasn’t a stretch for him to show others how to have a good time in the Lord. As a youth, he became proficient not only in football and baseball but other sports as well, including swimming and fishing. Both would mark incredible moments in his life. Big John’s quick thinking, swimming ability, and resilience saved his younger brother’s life when he was caught in a current in the Gulf of Mexico in Texas; fishing alongside his grandmother and parents furthered his understanding of being a fisherman of men.
This, among other challenges and triumphs, led to Big John submitting his life to Christ the summer of his sophomore year in high school at a CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) youth conference in Pittsburgh, PA.
In 2002, he graduated from Forest Hill High School, where he was an outstanding student-athlete, earning the distinction of being a member of the All Metro Team (2001-2002). Big John received many football scholarships, but Hinds Community College seemed the likely choice. However, that was before he couldn’t resist turning in his cleats for a set of mixing bowls. Ready to assist him was mentor Phillip Brown, a local chef who took him under his wings.
Big John possessed a natural talent for food preparation and soon became Brown’s sous-chef (second in command) at major functions, including NAACP Freedom Fund banquets and River Hills Country Club events.
In 2004, at the advice of Brown, Big John decided to pursue a degree in culinary arts at Keiser University in Tallahassee, FL.
It was obvious to family and friends that he had made the right career move when he returned home the next year to cater the CCDA youth conference as co-owner of 4C’s (Catering, Concessions, Competitions, Christ) with his mentor and new business partner, Phillip Brown. But unbeknownst to Big John, something else was brewing at the conference. It was there he was introduced to Patrice Casey, his future bride.
Upon graduation in 2006, Big John, now 22, returned home as the youngest executive chef in the state of Mississippi. But more importantly, he became a stakeholder in his west Jackson community.
That same year, Big John and Patrice wed and established a home that eagerly awaited the arrival of their three beautiful children – John Phillip Perkins, Jr., Sarah Patrice, and Johnathan Carey.
The more passionate Big John became about community outreach, the deeper his love and zeal for humanity grew. Now regarded as the protégé of his grandparents, Drs. John M. and Vera Mae Perkins, founders of the community development foundation named for them, he became his grandfather’s assistant in 2009 at the Spencer Perkins Center, named for his late uncle, and then president/CEO of the center in 2010.
Big John still made time to perfect his culinary arts skills. He served as the Executive Chef/Conference Services Manager for Valley Food Services at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond, MS.
In 2013, after receiving his ministry certification from Northpark University in Chicago, IL, Big John worked closely with church leaders in the Southeastern Conference of the Evangelical Covenant denomination to teach the gospel. Common Ground Covenant Church was planted the next year in his beloved west Jackson, and he was appointed lead pastor. Among the awards, certificates and accolades Big John received was being named Pastor of the Year at the 2018 Mississippi Gospel Music Awards. The following year, along with friend, Anthony Bobo Jr., he co-wrote Commissioned to Love, a Christian workbook focused on “Living Out The Whole Gospel.” He also developed a podcast, Postulating Solutions with Preachers, with Rev. Matthew J. Watts, pastor, Grace Bible Church in Charleston, WV.
In 2020, John was devastated by the death of his mother, Eva Quinn Perkins. Also preceding him in death were three uncles, Spencer Perkins, Wayne Perkins, and John Quinn; three aunts, Lucille Titus, Georgia Ann Williams, and Estella Louise Quinn; and his maternal grandfather, Johnny Quinn.
Minister John Phillip Perkins was highly regarded as Ever Resilient. He was a loving fathER, a beloved brothER, a gospel preachER, a caring teachER, a servant leadER, a true believER, a dedicated providER, a compassionate employER, a life changER, a community developER, an attentive listenER, a diligent seekER, a disciple makER, and a sought-after bakER.
“Big John’s faithfulness was to win the lost, and be a great advocate for the marginalized and the forgotten. He was a renaissance man. He challenged you with big ideas and pushed for big changes. In pursuing those changes, he led with his heart, but pursued change with his intellect,” commented Dr. Robert Owens, longtime friend and mentor.
John leaves a strong legacy to cherish his memory: his wife, C. Patrice and their three children, John Phillip Jr., Sarah Patrice, and Johnathan Carey, all of Jackson, MS; father, Phillip Lajon (Alice) Perkins of Jackson, MS; maternal grandmother, Julia Bell Hamilton of Clinton, MS; paternal grandparents, Drs. John M. and Vera Mae Perkins of Jackson, MS; brother, David (Chariti) Perkins of Byram, MS; sister, Toneasha Slater of Cincinnati, OH; stepsister, DeAnna (Andre) Johnson; five uncles, Derek (Geanette) Perkins of Jackson, MS, J.D. Quinn of Mendenhall, MS; Charles Quinn of Oakland, CA, Michael and Bobby Hamilton, both of D’Lo, MS; six aunts, Joanie (Ron) Perkins Potter of Jackson, MS, Priscilla, Deborah, and Elizabeth Perkins, all of Jackson, MS, Sarah Ann (Lee) Evans of Jackson, MS, and Thelma Mae Lasley of Chicago, IL; four nephews, Khalil Slater of Cincinnati, OH, DaSean Perkins of Byram, MS, Aniston Hammond of Kansas City, MO, and Ralph Casey of Kansas City, MO; seven nieces, Charli, Kynli and Kyri Perkins of Byram, MS, Adelyn Hammond of Kansas City, MO, Salem, Cora, and Vivienne of Kansas City, MO; father-in-law, Carey W. Casey and mother-in-law, Melanie L. Casey of Chicago, IL; two brothers-in-law, Marcellus (Stephanie) and Chance Casey, both of Kansas City, MO, one additional sister-in-law, Christie (Shunton) Hammond of Kansas City, MO; and a host of other relatives and friends.