WATCH: William T. Coleman, Jr. remarks and Q&A on March 31, 2011 at
the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on his book
“Counsel for the Situation: Shaping the Law to Realize America’s Promise”
Read the remarks of President Bill Clinton on Presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom
to William T. Coleman, Jr. on September 29, 1995
Content for this obituary from the Washington Post by Matt Schudel
William T. Coleman Jr., who helped draft the landmark 1954 legal case in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was illegal and who later became the country’s second black Cabinet officer after President Gerald R. Ford named him transportation secretary, died March 31 at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 96.
The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said a daughter, Lovida Hardin Coleman Jr.
Throughout his long career, Mr. Coleman was often at the forefront of major public events, legal battles and significant social advances. In 1948, he became the first African American to serve as a law clerk to a Supreme Court justice, and within two years he was working alongside Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund on major desegregation cases.
View photo of Justice Thurgood Marshall and William T. Coleman in the Red Room
prior to Coleman being sworn in as Secretary of Transportation. March 7, 1975.
(White House photograph A3576-23A, provided by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library)
In the 1960s, Mr. Coleman was a staff lawyer for the Warren Commission, investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He defended young civil rights activists known as Freedom Riders and successfully argued a Supreme Court case that helped eliminate prohibitions against interracial marriage.
A progressive Republican, Mr. Coleman was an adviser to every president, Republican and Democrat, from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush.
“He opened many, many doors and, by example, showed how absurd discrimination really is,” Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010. “It is important that people who don’t know him understand what he has done.”
To continue reading this Washington Post obituary by Matt Schudel, please visit: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/william-t-coleman-jr-transportation-secretary-and-civil-rights-lawyer-dies-at-96/2017/03/31/94c21ce6-1624-11e7-833c-503e1f6394c9_story.html?utm_term=.2f92d767b258