Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Brother of the Week: William T. Coleman, Jr.

William T. Coleman, Jr. is this week’s Brother of the Week. Back on September 29, 1995, Coleman was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest honor that can be given to a civilian and is “awarded to individual Americans for distinguished civilian service.”

Born in an era when a brother’s decision to pursue education meant that he would have to hurdle multiple impasses, Coleman achieved the unthinkable. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law (the later of which he began at the impressionable age of 21 and graduated magna cumme laude), he was the first African American to clerk for the Supreme Court. After his clerkship, he came to the Big Apple and joined the prestigious law firm of Paul, Weiss LLP as an associate. It was there that he teamed up with Thurgood Marshall and began his influential work in Civil Rights. Coleman was of the body of authors who penned the brief that persuaded the Supreme Court to outlaw segregation in public schools in 1954.

I could probably stop writing about his accomplishments here. Yet, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that he was also the first brother “in the history of Philadelphia to join a white firm” when he joined Dilworth, Paxon, Kalish, Levy and Green LLP. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that because of his financial expertise, he was asked to serve on the board of countless organizations including, Pan American Airways and the American Stock Exchange. I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that he was elected president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and that he served his country as Secretary of Transportation.

It is because of these accomplishments and many others that we salute Brother Coleman for his commitment to the struggle and the example of excellence he continues to give us.

For a narrative essay on William T. Coleman, Jr. click here.

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