Philip B. Perlman was born on March 5, 1890, in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of Benjamin and Rose Nathan Perlman. Perlman's graduated from City College high school in Baltimore, 1908. Soon after, he secured a job as a reporter for the Baltimore American while studying political economy at the Johns Hopkins University. In 1910, Perlman moved to the Evening Sun as a court reporter while pursuing a law degree at the University of Maryland Law School. Perlman passed the bar on June 24, 1911, a full year prior to receiving his law degree in 1912.
Despite earning his credentials as a lawyer, Perlman remained at the Evening Sun, where he was promoted to City Editor in 1913. After four years, Perlman resigned in order to practice law. Initially, Perlman worked at the Maryland State Law Department as an assistant to Maryland Attorney General Albert C. Ritchie, who became a notable contact and personal friend. Perlman's career took off when he became Assistant Maryland Attorney General in 1918 and Secretary of State under newly elected Governor Ritchie in 1919. Positions in public service appealed to Perlman, who would remain active in politics and government until his death in 1960.
Following three years as Secretary of State, Perlman served the City Solicitor of Baltimore from 1923 to 1926. Though he chose to pursue private practice after eight years in government service, Perlman remained active in Maryland and Baltimore politics as a member of the following commissions: Baltimore Efficiency and Economy Commission; Zoning Commission; the Maryland Water Resources Commission, Baltimore Unemployment Relief Commission; Mayor's Commission on Art Education; and the State Bar Association's Committee on Law. From 1938 to 1936 Perlman contributed his legal talents to the Baltimore Housing Authority in the position of General Counsel. In the 1940s, Perlman also advised Maryland Governor William Preston Lane on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge construction, highway improvement, and similar concerns. A strong presence in the local and state Democratic Party, Perlman worked on numerous state campaigns and served as a delegate to the national convention that nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. These experiences prepared Perlman for a more prominent position in the national party, as evidenced by his efforts in drafting the Democratic National Convention platform and participating as a state delegate for the second time in 1948.
From 1923 through at least 1942, Perlman operated a private law practice, often with his long-term law partner, Wirt A. Duvall, Jr. The lengthy partnership between Perlman and Duvall began in 1926; and records indicate that they shared an office at least through 1942. Together they represented a number of notable Maryland companies, including United Railways and Electric Company, the Annapolis-Claiborne Ferry Company, the City Ice Company, and the Fairway Company. As legal counsel for these companies, Perlman represented them in court, drafted contracts, witnessed agreements, and served as political liaison among Maryland politicians and lawmakers.
Perlman's contributions to the law extended beyond the practice of his profession. In 1923, he published a compilation of articles as Debates of the Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1867. Perlman also co-authored a second publication in 1948: Prejudice and Property: An Historic Brief Against Racial Covenants.
Perlman's impressive professional resume suggests a man consumed with his work in politics and the law; however, Perlman also contributed significant amounts of time and money to the Baltimore arts community. A key participant in the expansion of the Walter's Art Gallery in the 1930s, Perlman remained an ardent supporter and active member of the board throughout his life. Perlman also served as a trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art for twenty-seven years and as a member of the following boards at various times: the Baltimore Symphony, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Peale Museum. Perlman also served on the board of the Association of Jewish Charities, of which he was also a financial contributor.
In 1947, President Harry Truman tapped Perlman to become Solicitor General of the United States. Perlman held this post until 1952, when he returned to private practice in the firm Perlman, Lyons, and Browning in Washington, D.C. By this time, Perlman maintained a suite at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. but never relinquished ownership of his home on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore. Perlman died in 1960 at the age of seventy.