Born in Richmond, Massachusetts on March 15, 1831, Edward Aylesworth Perry was the fourth child of Asa and Philura Perry. He was a descendant of Arthur Perry, one of the earliest settlers of New England.
After briefly attending Yale University, in 1853, he moved to Greenville, Alabama where he taught and studied law under Hilary Herbert. Herbert later severed as a Colonel in the Confederate States Army, a Congressman from Alabama and Secretary of the Navy under President Grover Cleveland.
As soon as he passed the bar exam, Perry moved to Pensacola, Florida. From 1857 through 1861, he served as a judge for Escambia County, Florida. On February 1, 1859, he married Wathen Virginia Taylor of Greenville, Alabama. She was the daughter of Hubbard Bonner Taylor and Marjorie Catherine Herbert Taylor, and a granddaughter of Dr. Hilary Herbert one of the earliest settlers of Butler County, Alabama. She was also the cousin of Hilary A. Herbert, whom he studied law in Alabama.
Fighting with distinction during the Civil War for the Confederacy he rose from the rank of private to brigadier general. In May 1861, he enlisted in the “Pensacola Rifle Rangers,” which was later designed Company A of the 2nd Florida Infantry and elected captain. The following year he was elected colonel of the regiment.
He was furloughed in June 1862 after he was wounded during the fight at Glendale during the Peninsula Campaign. Returning to active duty on August 28, 1862, he was appointed brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederacy. Leading an All-Florida brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Chancellorsville, he missed the Gettysburg Campaign as he was stricken with typhoid fever.
Returning to the Army of Northern Virginia Perry commanded his brigade for the Bristoe Campaign in the fall of 1863. After being severely wounded on May 6, , in the fighting at Wilderness he returned to the trenches during the Siege of Petersburg but had not fully recovered and returned to Alabama for the remained of the war. He did serve on reserve duty in the Confederate Invalid Corps.
After the war, he returned to Florida and became a prominent lawyer and Democratic state politician. In 1884, he was elected governor and assumed office on January 7, 1885. It was during his administration that the state adopted a new constitution and he established the state board of education. He was an outspoken opponent of the carpetbaggers.
Active in the Scottish of Freemasonry, his antebellum home became the Scottish Rite Temple in downtown Pensacola.
His wife raised the funds for a Confederate Monument on Palafox Street, and the plaque bears her name. On January 8, 1889, he returned home to Pensacola. Years later the house was sold for $2.53 million, and funds are being raised to renovate it.
Perry died suddenly of a stroke while visiting Kerrville, Texas in 1889 at the age of 58. Both he and his wife are buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Pensacola.