William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr.
|William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr.|
|Judge of the United States Court of Military Commission Review|
September 21, 2004 – December 17, 2009
|Appointed by||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Scott Silliman|
|United States Secretary of Transportation|
March 7, 1975 – January 20, 1977
|Preceded by||Claude Brinegar|
|Succeeded by||Brock Adams|
July 7, 1920 |
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania
William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr. (born July 7, 1920) is an American attorney and politician. Coleman was the fourth United States Secretary of Transportation, from March 7, 1975 to January 20, 1977, and the second African American to serve in the Cabinet.
Early life and education
Coleman was born to William Thaddeus Coleman, Sr. and Laura Beatrice (née Mason) Coleman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended local public schools before graduating summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941 and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1946. He was elected to the Pi Gamma Mu international honor society in 1941. Coleman is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Coleman was awarded an honorary degree from Gettysburg College on Sunday, May 22, 2011.
He began his legal career in 1947, serving as law clerk to Judge Herbert F. Goodrich of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1948. He was the first African American to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk. Coleman was one of the lead strategists and coauthor of the legal brief in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) in which the U.S. Supreme Court held racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.
He served as a member of the NAACP's national legal committee, director and member of its executive committee, and president of board of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Coleman was also a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Committee on Government Employment Policy (1959–1961), a senior consultant and assistant counsel to the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (1964), and a consultant to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1963–1975).
During the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy, the committee received word via a backchannel that Fidel Castro, then Prime Minister of Cuba, wanted to talk to them. The commission sent Coleman as an investigator and he met with Castro on a fishing boat off the coast of Cuba. Castro denied any involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy during Coleman's three hour questioning. Coleman reported the results of his investigation and interview with Castro directly to Chief Justice Earl Warren. 
In 1969, he was a member of the U.S. delegation to the twenty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly. Coleman was also a member of the National Commission on Productivity (1971–1972). He was senior partner in the law firm of Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish, Levy & Coleman at the time of his appointment to the Ford administration.
President Gerald Ford appointed Coleman to serve as the nation's fourth Secretary of Transportation on March 7, 1975. During Coleman's tenure at the department, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's automobile test facility at East Liberty, Ohio commenced operations, and the department established the Materials Transportation Bureau to address pipeline safety and the safe shipment of hazardous materials.
Post political career
On leaving the department, Coleman returned to Philadelphia and subsequently became a partner in the Washington office of the Los Angeles-based law firm O'Melveny & Myers. On September 29, 1995, Coleman was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. In 1996, in the wake of the July 17 crash of TWA Flight 800, he served on the President's Commission on Airline and Airport Security. Coleman earned his LL.D. from Bates College in 1975.
In 1983, with the election quickly approaching, the Reagan administration stopped supporting the IRS's position against Bob Jones University that overtly discriminatory groups were ineligible for certain tax exemptions. Coleman was appointed to argue the now unsupported lower court position before the Supreme Court, and won in Bob Jones University v. United States.
In 1945, he married Lovida Mae Hardin. They have three children: Lovida H. Coleman, Jr., William T. Coleman III, lawyer; stepfather of Flavia Colgan, and Hardin L. Coleman, dean, Boston University School of Education.
- "Alpha Phi Alpha Politicians". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
- Greenhouse, Linda (2006-08-30). "Supreme Court Memo; Women Suddenly Scarce Among Justices' Clerks". The New York Times.
- "Military Commission Review Panel Takes Oath of Office". United States Department of Defense. 2004-09-22. Retrieved 2008-11-02. "William T. Coleman Jr., Ford administration secretary of transportation. Coleman's public service includes advisory or consultant positions to six presidents. Coleman was a member of the U.S. delegation to the 24th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1969. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1946." mirror
- Turner, Daniel. Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University. p. 230. "On April 19, the Court announced that it would not allow the NAACP to join the case, and in a step considered unprecedented by legal scholars and 'extraordinary' even to the NAACP's leadership, the Supreme Court Appointed a prosecutor of its own—black attorney and civil rights activist William T. Coleman. Bob Jones III commented that 'this puts the court in the position of creating an issue to be litigated and insisting that an issue be heard when one of the two litigants declares 'no contest'."
- Biography at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum
- Biography at AmericanPresident.org
- William Coleman's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- ALI Reporter
- "Remarks by the President in Presentation if the Presidential Medal Of Freedom" – September 29, 1995
|United States Secretary of Transportation
|New office||Judge of the United States Court of Military Commission Review