“When I think about Bill Coleman, I think about Bob Jones University v. I.R.S. and the Reagan Administration’s abandonment in the Supreme Court of the government’s long-held position denying tax-exempt-status to private schools that practiced racial discrimination. Rather than declare the case moot the Court, in an extraordinary step, appointed William T. Coleman to argue against racial discrimination. He won.
Over the years, I cannot recall any lawyer who commanded more respect in the U.S. Supreme Court than Bill Coleman -law clerk to Felix Frankfurter; first African American to clerk for a Supreme Court justice; member of the Brown v. Board of Education legal team; the second U.S. cabinet member, as Secretary of Transportation; long-time board member and Chairman of the Board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; leading corporate and law firm lawyer; and so much more.
Like Justice Frankfurter, who famously sent Bill Coleman from clerkship into the legal world with the charge, “I bet on you”, like the U.S. Supreme Court that placed the task of arguing against governmental racial discrimination in Bob Jones; we bet on Bill Coleman. He never let us down.”