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Born into a comfortable family in Germantown, Pennsylvania, William T. Coleman, Jr., graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941, and ranked first in his class when he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1946. He was the first African American to clerk for a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving under Felix Frankfurter from 1948 to 1949. Coleman worked in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, becoming the first African American to join an established white law firm in that city. Deeply committed to civil rights, Coleman coauthored the brief in the challenge to legalized school segregation in the landmark desegregation case before the Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Entering public life in 1965, Coleman was appointed by Pennsylvania governor William Scranton to participate in the ultimately successful attempt to desegregate ...


Robert Mason

lawyer and public official, was born William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. in the Germantown district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Thaddeus Coleman, a social worker, and Laura Beatrice Mason. His was a middle-class family with many of its members engaged in teaching, social work, and the church. Coleman attended an all-black elementary school in Germantown and a predominantly white high school, in which he was one of seven African American students.

Having harbored an ambition since childhood to be a lawyer, Coleman entered Harvard Law School in 1941 after graduating with a BA degree summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. Wartime service in the U.S. Army Air Corps interrupted his legal studies, which he completed in 1946 by gaining his LLB degree magna cum laude, first in his class. He married Lovida Hardin in 1945 they would have three children On leaving Harvard after an ...