James Cole, Jr., Former Board Member of LDF, to Become U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, Leading My Brother’s Keeper Task Force

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that former Board Member of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), James Cole, Jr., will assume the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Education in the U.S. Department of Education. He will also retain his previous position as General Counsel. Among his many new responsibilities, Cole will manage the department’s operations and lead its work on President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. 

Previously, he served as the Deputy Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation. He has also been a partner in the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and has held numerous positions focusing on educational achievement, access, and opportunity for all students.

Mr. Cole’s passion for education partly stems from his personal history of mentoring high school and college students since graduating from Dunbar Vocational High School, located on Chicago’s South Side. Cole received his Bachelor of Science degree in finance with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his J.D. from the University of Chicago’s Law School.

“We want to extend our warmest congratulations to James as he steps into this new and very important leadership role at the Department of Education,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “For eight years, as an LDF Board Member, he provided us with his insight, guidance, and expertise as we worked to fulfill our mission to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. His work on the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will be a wonderful continuation of his commitment—at LDF and during his entire career—to overcoming racial disparities and ensuring equal opportunity.”

Leslie Proll, LDF’s Director of Policy, added: “He will be a wonderful asset to the Department, particularly as it embarks on a robust implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act to close achievement gaps and to promote quality education for all children.”


Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.