Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Perry grew up the son of a pastor. A few years after graduating high school, Perry joined the Mississippi Air Guard, becoming an Aircraft Loadmaster on the C-141 Starlifter.
While in the Air Guard, Perry met his wife, Kathie, in England. She was on temporary assignment with the Ohio National Guard, and he was a member of the aircrew assigned to fly her unit back to Ohio. The two met on the airplane shortly after take-off and talked for hours. That conversation is still going even after 28 years.
After leaving the guard went to Mississippi College and upon graduating, he attended and graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.