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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Warren Perrin - Weightlifting 1965-68 - June, 2021
Perrin passionate about Cajun culture, athletics
By Bruce Brown
There aren't enough hours in the day to be Warren Perrin.
A product of tiny Henry High School in Vermilion Parish, Perrin was part of perhaps the most successful athletic teams in Ragin' Cajun history.
The USL weight lifting team won eight of 13 national titles, including four straight and going unbeatem as a team from 1965-68 when Perrin was aboard – twice as captain who placed third at nationals in 1966 and second in 1967.
He never placed lower than third in any major competition.
But that only scratches the surface.
Perrin made the Dean's List 10 times at USL, graduated with honors in the top 10 percent of his class, was a member of the Blue Key Honor Society, Kappa Alpha president, Student Government member and graduated with honors from LSU Law School in 1972.
Since then, he was named to UL's S Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame in 2007.
He was named the University's Outstanding Alumni in 2018, to no one's surprise.
That would be enough for most lifetimes, but not for Perrin, a dedicated Acadian descendant who created the Acadian Museum in Erath in 1990 and has served as president of CODOFIL from 1994-2010.
He also had the deep-believing audacity to successfully petition to get an apology from the Queen of England for England's banishment of French settlers from Canadian territory in 1755 which brought Acadians – Cajuns – to south Louisiana.
He received the 1998 French National Honor of Merit, represented Louisiana and the USA at the World Francophone Summit held in Quebec, Hanoi and Switzerland, and in 2020 was honored for Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities Award by Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
Perrin has authored nine books on the plight of the Acadians, and now is on the verge of revealing two more projects near to his heart.
One is a history of that remarkable weight lifting team at USL, with an accompanying video documentary in the works.
The other is the story of David Berger, the Jewish American weightlifter who was killed by Palestinian Black September terrorists in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Basketball, track and weight training
Perrin was an undersized center on the Henry High basketball team, as well as a state champion long jumper and triple jumper in track and field.
There were just 12 students in his graduating class, so versatility was at a premium in the HHS athletic arena.
“My big brother Terry had a set of barbells,” said Perrin, who was eager to try new ways to improve. “He was a shot putter and played basketball. I wanted to get more strength in my legs, and Terry taught me some of the exercises I needed to do.
“We became the neighborhood gym.”
The idea caught on, ahead of much of the country, that proper weight training had benefits in other sports as well as thrive as a sport of its own.
Perrin won the state high school weight lifting title in his class in 1965, foreshadowing later success at USL.
Another spark came from across the Basin.
“(Strength coach) Alvin Roy was on TV at 10 o'clock every Saturday,” Perrin said. “He had developed Billy Cannon and Johnny Robinson at LSU. Cannon won the 100 and shot put at the SEC meet. Weight lifting became big.”
It was strictly a grass roots operation, with members admiring the unparalled skill of Hawaii star Tommy Kono and others while keeping their focus on their own work to excel.
Part of something special
When Perrin got to USL, he followed brother Terry's footsteps in the Cajun weight lifting team, a group of athletes clearly dedicated and focused.
“There was no coach,” Perrin said. “The team captain decided which seven (members) would compete at the next meet. He had the final say. It was extremely competitive. Every week, you might have 8-12 trying to earn a spot. Every practice was like a tryout.”
Perrin, who lifted at 165 pounds, was captain as a sophomore.
“We critiqued each other, often pretty harshly. Every day was a struggle, two hours every day working on our own, working on technique, pushing ourselves and each other.
“We were a fraternity of self-motivated guys. We also worked a lot on details during competition, making adjustments.”
Those Cajun teams competed against the best in the country, and conquered them at the highest levels. They also weren't afraid of double dares.
“We had the opportunity to compete in New Orleans and Houston on the same weekend,” Perrin said. “(Athletic Director) Whitey Urban didn't want us to go, saying we would risk our perfect record.
“But we split up the team and won both meets.”
A trio marked by descrimination
Perrin has made it his life's work to chronicle the mistreatment of Cajun people, first with their banishment from Nova Scotia by the English, but also in south Louisiana where they were looked down upon by English-speaking people.
“We were not only told not to speak French in school,” Perrin said, “but we were also told not to speak aloud in stores. I've been able to get a lot of material on the Acadian people in my research.
“The Civil Rights Act and CODOFIL were the beginning of change for us.”
Now, of course, there is French Immersion in schools, so times have changed.
Prejudice actually played a role in starting the USL weight-lifting team. Walter Imahara was a one-man team in 1955, arriving after his American family of Japanese descent was shipped from California to internment camps in Arkansas after Pearl Harbor drew the U.S. Into World War II and West Coast officials feared those of Asian lineage.
Imahara was joined in 1956 by Cliff LeBlanc, Stafford Palombo and Kenneth and Mike Stansbury, and the program was on its way.
Perrin can relate to Imahara, with the two sharing similar situations of prejudice and being dislodged as a people.
He also knew and related to Berger, who competed in weight lifting for Tulane against the Cajuns and made the Israeli Olypmic Team in 1972, only to be slain by terrorists in the Olympic Village.
“He finished No. 1 in his law class, moved to Israel, made the team and competed in the Olympics,” Perrin said. “Two days later, he was dead.
“David, Walter and I shared similar experiences – anti-Jewish, anti-Asian and anti-Cajun. David's family has provided tremendous access for the book.”
Perrin's idea for the book and film on the Cajun weightlifting team was sparked by the program's 50-year reunion in 2016. The target date for its release is homecoming, 2021, and it promises to be meticulously researched like all Perrin projects.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
No. 4, close to the top
Numerous cars and vehicles around south Louisiana feature a UL license plate showing support for the one-time directional university.
By now, the numbers on those plates have grown large.
Warren Perrin's plate is No. 4, fitting for someone who has always had Cajuns and their school No. 1 in his heart.
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Pictured below are the 1967 National Weightlifting champions.
Click here for the Weightlifting photo gallery (1956-2016).
Ragin' Cajuns Reunions and Special Events (banner on right side of News Box);
Scroll down for the 2016 and 2006 Weightlifting Reunions, along with the May 15, 2021 Induction of the 2020 Outstanding Alumni Association Graduates, which included Walter Imahara. A photo gallery of each event is included.
Click here for Warren's Athletic Network profile.
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Click here for the 2007-present annual/chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
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