Counsel for the Situation

Counsel for the Situation: Shaping the Law to Realize America's Promise

William T. Coleman
with Donald T. Bliss
FOREWORD BY Stephen G. Breyer
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 450
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt127wnr
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  • Book Info
    Counsel for the Situation
    Book Description:

    "Bill Coleman's story is one that younger generations should mark and inwardly digest, lest they forget the pioneers who helped to make a better America possible." -From the Foreword by Stephen G. Breyer

    William Coleman has spent a lifetime opening doors and breaking down barriers. He has been an eyewitness to history; moreover, he has made history. This is his inspiring story, in his own words.

    Americans of color faced daunting barriers in the 1940s. Despite graduating first in his class at Harvard Law and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, Coleman was shut out of major East Coast law firms. But as the Philadelphia native writes, "The times, they were a'changing." He not only benefited from that change -he helped propel it, by way of dogged determination, undeniable intellect, and stellar accomplishment.

    Coleman's legal work with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund helped jumpstart the civil rights movement in the 1950s. He was the first American of color to clerk for the Supreme Court, and later served as senior counsel to the Warren Commission, investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1975 he was appointed secretary of transportation by President Gerald Ford -the first American of color to serve in a Republican cabinet -and in 1995 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton.

    At his core, Bill Coleman is a lawyer. He strives to be a "counsel for the situation" -an advocate able to take on major matters in a variety of legal disciplines while upholding the highest traditions of justice and the public interest. He is fiercely proud of the legal profession's role in a democratic society and free economy, and he is grateful for the opportunities that profession has afforded him in the court room, the board room, and the corridors of power. It is through this prism that he relates his own story -his life and the law.

    The results speak for themselves, and in this immensely entertaining chronicle, the Counsel for the Situation speaks for himself.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0494-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-x)
    Stephen G. Breyer

    When Bill Coleman tried out for the swim team at his Philadelphia high school, the school eliminated the team rather than risk racial integration. That is the world in which Bill grew up. And that is the world that Bill Coleman helped to change. He did so directly when called upon for help by Thurgood Marshall. And he did so indirectly through the power of example—the example of a man of unusual ability who became successful as a skilled attorney, a wise counselor, and a dedicated public servant.

    Bill Coleman’s story is one that younger generations should mark and...

  4. PROLOGUE Achieving the American Dream as Counsel for the Situation
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    At some point each of us enters the stream of history. We have no control over the time or place, or the sandbars, boulders, or floating obstructions we may confront along the way. I entered the stream on July 7, 1920. I began to chart a course through most of a transitional century, a time unique in the annals of American and world history. This was the century in which a youthful pluralistic nation began to fulfill the promise of its declaratory charters, recognizing the rights of all its citizens to reach their full potential and resolve their differences within...

  5. ONE Mr. Coleman Goes to Washington
    (pp. 1-4)

    One Thursday afternoon in late 1974, I was sitting in my law offices at the Dilworth firm in Philadelphia, preparing for a court hearing. My assistant buzzed me on the intercom: “It’s Mr. Donald Rumsfeld on the line.”

    “I’ll take it,” I said. I knew and admired Don Rumsfeld from my days on President Nixon’s productivity and price commissions. When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency after Nixon’s resignation, Rumsfeld became his chief of staff. That afternoon, in his usual brisk but courteous manner, Rummy told me that President Ford wanted to see me in the Oval Office the next afternoon....

  6. PART I THE FORMATIVE YEARS

    • TWO Roots
      (pp. 7-14)

      “Someday, William, you will make a wonderful chauffeur.” My English teacher, Miss Egge, had intended to compliment the poised oral presentation that I, one of the four tenth-graders of color at Germantown High, then one of Philadelphia’s finest public high schools, had just given.

      Yet somehow I didn’t take it quite that way. So I answered, foolishly and from the gut, “You’ll probably end up as my driver, you [blank] white woman,” using epithets that I’d heard on the football field after an illegal block, which I am too embarrassed to repeat even to this day.

      I was promptly kicked...

    • THREE Making Jewels Out of Rough Diamonds
      (pp. 15-21)

      My father rejected the separate-but-equal doctrine, but he would probably have to admit that the Wissahickon Boys’ Club was without equal in the nation. Owing to the generosity of the Quakers and Father’s leadership, the club developed a physical plant and membership numbers from the 1920s through the 1940s that rivaled those of any boys’ club in the country, colored or white.

      The club opened in 1903 as one of the original fifty-three boys clubs in the country and the first to serve youth of color. Its roots were in several organizations that had served the Negro community since the...

    • FOUR Home Sweet Home
      (pp. 22-25)

      The Great Depression hit the nation in 1929 when I was nine years old. My dad’s workload greatly increased, and the Colemans always had food on the table, decent clothes on our backs, and a comfortable home. Dad worked with many families on relief, encouraged boys to join the federal Civilian Conservation Corps, and undertook additional charitable work. For example, he persuaded many of the Wissahickon Boys’ Club’s directors, who were wealthy people with large properties, to make some of their sizable backyards available to jobless people to grow food for consumption or sale.

      Through his many community activities, Dad...

    • FIVE School Days
      (pp. 26-29)

      In second grade, I was a difficult child. Much to the class’s enjoyment, I often would talk back disrespectfully to the teacher, who always was a woman. One day, while I was acting up, my classmates’ laughter ceased and silence pervaded the room. When I looked to the door, my father was standing there. He chastised me in front of the class, making good use of his powerful hand and belt. He made me apologize to the teacher, Miss Walters. My days as class clown came to an abrupt end.

      In 1925 the public schools in Philadelphia, though north of...

    • SIX Sibling Rivalries
      (pp. 30-33)

      “Don’t you ever forget it, Bill. When you were buried in books in the school library, I was out on the front lines, fighting for civil rights in the old South.”

      My sister Emma, who passed away at the age of ninety-three, was right. I learned a lot from her example. The immediate Coleman family of five was close knit, but we siblings were always competitive. My sister’s practical wisdom and my brother’s practical jokes enlivened many dinner table conversations and family outings.

      Whether in the classroom or in the family, Emma was a born teacher. She taught me the...

    • SEVEN College Years
      (pp. 34-40)

      When the lights went out and the Emlen campers were supposed to be asleep, serious talk began among the counselors. “Where do you want to go to college, Bill?” the senior counselor from Howard University asked me. “I was thinking about an Ivy League school, maybe Penn,” I responded. “You’re setting your sights pretty high, aren’t you?” he retorted. “I don’t want to sound too much like Booker T. Washington,” the counselor from Morgan State chimed in, “but I do believe that a Negro college gives us the most practical grounding for success.”

      “A Negro college was good enough for...

  7. PART II LEARNING TO BE A GOOD LAWYER

    • EIGHT Harvard Law School
      (pp. 43-55)

      “Are you on your way to the law school?” he asked, noticing the bewildered look on my face.

      “Yes,” I replied.

      “I’ll show you the way. I know the territory pretty well. I just finished Harvard College. Where did you go to college?”

      “University of Pennsylvania,” I answered. “No surprise, I was raised in Philadelphia. Are you from Boston?”

      “Born and bred in Brookline, just outside Boston.”

      I climbed the few remaining steps from the Harvard Square subway and accompanied this chisel-faced young man with his swept-back hair and his crisp Boston Brahmin accent. We walked across the famous Harvard...

    • NINE War
      (pp. 56-68)

      “Hey, nigger, where’re you going?”

      I kept on walking.

      “Hey, boy, where’re you going?”

      No response. He moved closer, his six-foot, muscular frame towering over me.

      “Hey, boy, did you hear me? Get over here.”

      In cowardly fashion, I settled for the lesser but still obviously insulting question for a man of twenty-three. I told him where I was going. It was my first experience of southern racial intimidation, a valuable lesson for later years when we would be fighting racial discrimination in southern courts.

      The white, rosy-cheeked Army sergeant with the choleric disposition had been waiting at the train...

    • TEN After the War
      (pp. 69-72)

      Lovida and I had planned to return to Boston at the conclusion of my military service in November 1945 so I could complete my studies at Harvard Law School. The next semester did not begin until the end of January 1946. In the interim we returned to Philadelphia to live with my parents. I got a job working for Raymond Pace Alexander, undoubtedly the most prominent lawyer of color in Philadelphia and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard Law School. His wife, Sadie T. M. Alexander, was also a lawyer and a partner in his firm,...

    • ELEVEN Clerking for the Good Judge
      (pp. 73-77)

      “Have you lined up a job yet, Bill?” Elliot inquired. He had just been elected president of theHarvard Law Review,and we were chatting at its sixtieth anniversary dinner as Justice Felix Frankfurter walked by.

      “Not yet,” I replied, sheepishly. Although I had graduated magna cum laude at the top of my class, my job search had so far been unsuccessful. I was one of the few graduates of the law school who had not yet received an offer.

      Perhaps I had set my sights too high. In June 1946 I had boldly written to Justice Hugo Black about...

    • TWELVE Justice Frankfurter
      (pp. 78-86)

      My year with Justice Frankfurter (from September 1, 1948, to August 31, 1949) remains among the most meaningful and enjoyable of my life. Having greatly admired a legend from afar, I discovered, working with him daily for most of the year, that he was even more brilliant, caring, widely read, informed, witty, and, yes, demanding than I could ever have imagined. Each day was a thrill, walking up the steps into the grand Supreme Court building. My associations with the sixteen other law clerks, who arrived from various parts of the country, bringing different philosophies and perspectives, was both stimulating...

    • THIRTEEN Life at the Supreme Court and in the Nation’s Capital
      (pp. 87-94)

      Most mornings, Justice Frankfurter walked to work with Secretary of State Acheson from their homes in Georgetown to the old Executive Office Building, next to the White House, which then housed the Department of State.¹ They would talk about the issues of the day. Often the justice, according to Acheson, would not stop talking even when they reached the office building. Finally, the secretary had to make the rule that when they reached a certain line on the pavement outside the building the conversation would stop. The justice would avoid ending the conversation by stopping just ten steps before the...

  8. PART III NEW YORK, NEW YORK

    • FOURTEEN From the Ivory Tower to the Working World
      (pp. 97-104)

      Such is the nature of the human condition that life—like a roller coaster ride—can descend from high to low and back to high with rapid acceleration. As my clerkship was coming to an end, I returned on several occasions to my home town of Philadelphia in search of a job. It was time to descend from the ivory tower of the Supreme Court to the working world. I thought I was reasonably well prepared—a graduate summa cum laude of the University of Pennsylvania; an editor of theHarvard Law Reviewgraduating first in my class; a commissioned...

    • FIFTEEN American History in Black and White
      (pp. 105-115)

      After I hung up the phone that December day, a surge of elation quickly yielded to trepidation. I had just been invited by Thurgood Marshall to a three-day summit of preeminent civil rights lawyers and legal scholars. We were going to plot a strategy to take our great nation to the next milestone in the struggle for equal rights for all Americans regardless of color.

      I had a challenging full-time practice at Paul, Weiss, where I was determined to prove the wisdom of Louis Weiss’s groundbreaking decision to hire me. Yet from law school and my clerkships, I recognized the...

    • SIXTEEN Chipping Away at Plessy
      (pp. 116-119)

      Charles Houston was the anchor and architect of the strategy—and his strategy yielded some significant successes in laying the foundation for a frontal attack on public school segregation. Houston was not only a brilliant strategist and mesmerizing advocate, he was above all a mentor and teacher who would ensure that progress would not depend on the fortunes of a single leader. When he died of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty-four, our shock and sadness quickly turned to resolve and renewed dedication to see his mission fulfilled.¹

      Houston, Hastie, and Marshall, with their strong support team,...

    • SEVENTEEN The Brown Team
      (pp. 120-126)

      In January 1950 I walked into the conference room of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., on West 40th Street in Manhattan. We sometimes called it the “Inc” Fund. Some faces were familiar and some were not, but over the next five years I came to know the most dedicated, energetic, and innovative group of people whom I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Many went on to extraordinary careers as judges, law school deans, and practicing lawyers, where they continue to improve the nation’s laws.

      Like Marshall, Robert Lee Carter had graduated from Lincoln University and...

  9. PART IV A PHILADELPHIA LAWYER

    • EIGHTEEN The City of Brotherly Love
      (pp. 129-133)

      As I was drafting a contract for an Arthur Miller production at Paul, Weiss in 1952, the phone rang. “Bill, this is Richardson Dilworth.”

      After a few pleasantries, he went on, “Bill, I know you have had an interest in practicing law in Philadelphia. I have just been elected Philadelphia district attorney and am looking for some bright young lawyers to assist me. Would you be willing to drop by my office at my law firm in the Fidelity building sometime next week to discuss employment in the district attorney’s office?”

      “Well, I am honored, Mr. Dilworth, that you would...

    • NINETEEN Expert in Relevance
      (pp. 134-142)

      At last I was in fact and reality a Philadelphia lawyer.

      The termPhiladelphia lawyerhas had several meanings through the years. In 1952 it meant a very competent counsel who is knowledgeable in the most minute aspects of the law and uses that knowledge in a shrewd and creative manner to benefit his or her client.

      The term originated with Andrew Hamilton, who had obtained the acquittal of a German printer, John Peter Zenger. In 1735 Zenger was charged with publishing “seditious libels and treasonable defamation” about the New York Royalist governor William Cosby. Zenger had been unable to...

    • TWENTY The Tipping Point
      (pp. 143-149)

      The Supreme Court scheduled the five school desegregation cases for argument on December 9, 1952. I spent many evenings and weekends and much of my vacation time in New York and Washington, working on the briefs and preparing Marshall, Carter, Robinson, Nabrit, Hayes, and Greenberg for oral argument. Neither my name nor that of Louis H. Pollak could be on the briefs filed in 1952. Former Supreme Court law clerks were prohibited from appearing before the Court for three years after their clerkships ended.

      When December 9 arrived, I entered the courtroom and sat nervously in the lawyers’ section. Chief...

    • TWENTY-ONE Reargument, December 7, 1953
      (pp. 150-155)

      “Mr. Marshall,” I said to break the palpable tension, “you’re going to have to be as good as Toussaint L’Ouverture. If a colored slave could defeat Napoleon’s generals in Haiti, there is hope for us today.”

      Sighing heavily as he shifted his lanky frame in the back seat of the taxi, Marshall looked at me quizzically and then spoke, perhaps anticipating the argument he was about to make to the Supreme Court—an argument that would validate a twenty-year struggle against all odds.

      “You still don’t get it, Coleman,” he admonished me. (He always called me Coleman.) “It’s not about...

    • TWENTY-TWO With All Deliberate Speed
      (pp. 156-160)

      According to published reports, Chief Justice Warren was convinced that a decision of the magnitude of theBrowncases required unanimity. He had worked hard to persuade his colleagues on the bench. The last holdout most probably was southern justice Stanley Reed, who intended to write a dissenting opinion. After several lunches during which Warren urged Reed to join the opinion, Warren asked his colleague whether he really wanted to file a lone dissent that would only encourage resistance in the South and undermine the authority of the Court.

      I have learned from others that Justice Frankfurter was also quite...

    • TWENTY-THREE Enforcing the Court’s Order
      (pp. 161-167)

      A telephone call from Thurgood Marshall during the summer of 1958 ended any hope I had of an August vacation with my family in South Pomfret, Vermont. The federal district court in Arkansas had ordered that nine Negro plaintiffs be admitted to Central High School in Little Rock beginning the day after Labor Day in 1957.

      During a visit with President Eisenhower at his summer vacation spot in Newport, Rhode Island, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus had pledged yet again to cooperate with the courts and the federal government. But when the nine school children of color attempted to enter the...

    • TWENTY-FOUR A Lawyer’s Public Service Obligation
      (pp. 168-182)

      One of the great benefits of practicing law in an enlightened law firm is the recognition by just about all of your partners of a lawyer’s continuing and compelling obligation to serve the public. As the nation increasingly recognized the value of diverse participation in addressing the challenges we faced at the local, state, and federal levels, I was offered many opportunities for public service. Because I had a full-time job practicing law and had undertaken a substantial commitment to the Legal Defense Fund, I had to be selective in accepting these opportunities.

      One I could not refuse was an...

    • TWENTY-FIVE Managing the Dilworth Litigation Department
      (pp. 183-192)

      Back at the Dilworth firm, I continued to be actively engaged in litigation and corporate matters. On February 12, 1962, Mayor Dilworth had resigned to run for governor of Pennsylvania. He was solidly defeated by William Scranton by more than half a million votes. Scranton, a Republican representative from Scranton, Pennsylvania, was a worthy opponent. It hadn’t hurt that his brother-in-law, the editor ofTimemagazine, had put Scranton’s picture on the cover ofTimea week before the election. Dilworth told me he was happy that the margin of his loss was so great because he did not lie...

    • TWENTY-SIX The Girard College Case
      (pp. 193-198)

      Stephen Girard, a Philadelphia merchant and banker, was in 1813 the richest man in America. He had made his fortune in developing trade with China. When in 1811 Congress refused to renew the charter of the Bank of the United States, Girard purchased the bank’s nonfinancial assets. During the War of 1812 with Great Britain, he lent the U.S. Treasury more than $8 million, enabling the young nation to defend itself and end the war on respectable terms in the 1814 Treaty of Ghent. Girard was a great patriot and philanthropist. When he died in December 1831 in Philadelphia, his...

    • TWENTY-SEVEN The Legacy of Houston-Hastie-Marshall
      (pp. 199-204)

      After I had accepted Thurgood Marshall’s request in 1958 to become chairman of the board of directors of the LDF, I began to broaden my involvement in its multifaceted legal assault on racial discrimination, while remaining a full-time partner in the Dilworth firm. As the leading civil rights group dedicated to securing equal opportunity for people of color through law, the LDF has focused on school integration, education equity, voter rights and protection, economic justice, fair housing, employment discrimination, capital punishment, reform of the criminal justice and prison system, the right to marry interracially, and the selection of judicial nominees...

    • TWENTY-EIGHT The Nixon Years
      (pp. 205-210)

      Shortly after the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, I received a call from William Rogers, his secretary of state designee. President-elect Nixon had asked him to contact me and request that I come to Washington for a meeting. When I arrived at his office at the State Department, Rogers came right to the point. Nixon had recommended me for appointment as legal adviser to the Department of State. It was an intriguing offer. The legal adviser, comparable to the general counsel of Defense or Treasury, had at his service an elite cadre of lawyers that rivaled the best law...

  10. PART V SERVING IN THE FORD CABINET

    • TWENTY-NINE Change in Course
      (pp. 213-219)

      My greatest ambition—the unrelenting career focus of my life since my sophomore year in college—was to be a successful practicing lawyer in an outstanding private law firm. I love the law, the courtroom clashes, the demands of anxious clients, the challenge of complex transactions, the resolution of conflicts through reason, and the income that a law practice can generate. But that world was about to change. In his genial, disarming way, President Ford had drafted me onto his team. The former star center at the University of Michigan was facing the greatest challenge of his career, and I...

    • THIRTY Cabinet-Style Government
      (pp. 220-229)

      Having had the presidency suddenly thrust upon him, Ford spent the first six months assembling his own team, combining new faces with trusted veterans from the Nixon administration. Attending my first cabinet meeting in April 1975 was a thrill for me. In the historic cabinet room, I felt humbled by the examples of such awe-inspiring predecessors as Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, William H. Seward, George C. Marshall, and Frances Perkins.

      Assembled around the table were the newly confirmed vice president, Nelson Rockefeller; Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state; Edward Levi, the new attorney general; Carla Hills, secretary of...

    • THIRTY-ONE Getting to Know the Department of Transportation
      (pp. 230-244)

      Congress created the Department of Transportation on October 15, 1966, to bring together under one roof the disparate federal transportation programs and to develop a comprehensive, coordinated transportation policy. The department began operations on April 1, 1967, in President Johnson’s administration under the leadership of its first secretary, Alan S. Boyd. At the time of my arrival in June 1975, it consisted of seven agencies, most of which had direct access to Congress at least equal to that of the secretary of transportation.

      Superimposed on the seven modal administrations was the Office of the Secretary, whose job was to address...

    • THIRTY-TWO Making Transportation Policy
      (pp. 245-257)

      During the confirmation process several senators had pressed me on a particular issue: What was the Department of Transportation’s purpose? It had been in existence since 1966. Its enabling statute had expressly directed the secretary to develop a national transportation policy. Why? Congress created the department to coordinate the federal funding and regulation of transportation systems to promote safe, efficient, and seamless interstate and local transportation of people and goods.¹ Yet almost a decade later, no transportation policy statement had been issued.

      In 1791 Alexander Hamilton had prepared what essentially was the nation’s first national transportation policy. It was called...

    • THIRTY-THREE The Decisionmaking Process
      (pp. 258-268)

      In the Ford administration, we were fully committed to restoring confidence and trust in the federal government as the nation healed from the Watergate trauma. Since my training and experience had been exclusively as a lawyer, the tools I brought to this task were a commitment to a process that is fair, rational, transparent, and understandable to the public. Too often decisions in Washington were made behind closed doors, influenced by powerful interests with deep pockets and special access, and explained with a distorted spin that only increased public distrust and cynicism.

      When I assumed office I faced a number...

    • THIRTY-FOUR A Time of Transition
      (pp. 269-278)

      During my twenty-three months as secretary of transportation, my respect and admiration for President Ford grew immensely. His guileless style was the polar opposite of that of his two immediate predecessors. His calm, warm, engaging, self-assured personality was exactly what the nation needed. As a congressional leader, he was well versed in domestic and international affairs, an excellent judge of character, a good listener who sought many diverse points of view, decisive, and willing to delegate to persons in whom he had confidence. He was not particularly interested in, or good at, public relations. The media’s projection and public perception...

  11. PART VI A WASHINGTON LAWYER

    • THIRTY-FIVE The Sun Also Rises in the East
      (pp. 281-288)

      Since its founding in 1885, O’Melveny & Myers had been an integral part of the growth of Los Angeles from a sleepy Mexican town to the second-largest city in the United States. Over the decades O’Melveny had established an extraordinary reputation on the West Coast, representing the major California banks, IBM, Occidental Petroleum, General Motors, major motion picture studios, Lockheed Aircraft, the department store Carter Hawley Hale, and, more glamorously, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, William Holden, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Gene Autry, and Ingrid Bergman. In 1976 its fewer than two hundred lawyers were housed in downtown Los Angeles and...

    • THIRTY-SIX Building the Washington Practice
      (pp. 289-299)

      Early in 1978 I got a call from Hank Nolte, general counsel for the Ford Motor Company. Nolte had been general counsel of Philco when I arranged a meeting with Attorney General Kennedy to discuss Ford’s acquisition of Philco. We also had worked together closely to negotiate an agreement as part of my air bags experiment when I was transportation secretary. Hank’s boss, Phil Caldwell, the chief executive officer of Ford, was on the Chase Manhattan board with me. Nolte wanted to speak with me about representing Ford on a very serious automobile safety matter. I flew out to Detroit,...

    • THIRTY-SEVEN The Bob Jones Case
      (pp. 300-308)

      On a late Friday afternoon in April 1982, my office telephone rang. When I picked up the phone the voice on the line said, “The chief justice of the United States, the Honorable Warren Burger, wishes to speak with you.” Was this a belated April fool’s joke? I decided to play along. “Go ahead and put him through,” I said.

      “Mr. Coleman, this is Chief Justice Burger.” The melodious, deep bass voice was unmistakable. With his flowing white hair and modulating intonations, Warren Burger fit the public image of a chief justice. Hollywood could not have improved on the typecasting....

    • THIRTY-EIGHT Supreme Court Practice
      (pp. 309-320)

      Having served in the executive branch and testified on many occasions before Congress, I would have to say that for a practicing lawyer, there is no experience more exhilarating than advocacy before the Supreme Court of the United States. I am far from an expert in antitrust law, natural gas regulation, public transit, constitutional law, the Internal Revenue Code, or even interracial cohabitation, but then neither are the nine justices. When called on to represent clients in these and other areas, I would totally immerse myself in the record, the judicial precedents, and the prior positions of the justices. In...

    • THIRTY-NINE The Robert Bork Hearings
      (pp. 321-334)

      On my return to the private sector, I was honored to be asked to resume a leadership role in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund as the co-chair of its board. The fund had had many successes in resuscitating the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments from decades of somnolence. It had fought hard to ensure the enforcement of a great deal of recently enacted civil rights legislation. To preserve and protect these successes, it was essential that federal judges be appointed who would not turn back the pages of history.

      Of the many judicial nominees the Legal Defense Fund...

    • FORTY Is Race Still Relevant?
      (pp. 335-341)

      President Kennedy’s observation is a self-evident truth, but a truth whose significance unfortunately has eluded many Americans for too many years. Even after the adoption of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, the Supreme Court in 1896 essentially endorsed a system of American-style apartheid.¹

      I was born only twenty-four years after thePlessydecision. I became conscious of differences in skin color at a very young age, and experienced various forms of Yankee-style racism. My parents emphasized the value and contributions of people of color throughout world history and to the American experience. What they taught me was important to the...

    • FORTY-ONE Opportunities for Public Service
      (pp. 342-354)

      One blustery day in early 1977 I got a call from Cy Vance, then secretary of state in President Carter’s administration. Cy told me that President Carter was very concerned about deteriorating relations with Latin America. While President Kennedy had made a noble effort to improve relations through the Alliance for Progress initiative, in recent years elected officials had blithely ignored our neighbors to the south. This was fast reaching a boiling point, with virulent attacks on the United States and angry protest mobs, no doubt provoked by young Latino revolutionaries. The central rallying point at the time was U.S....

    • FORTY-TWO Reflecting on Republicans and Race
      (pp. 355-365)

      I have been a registered Republican for sixty-five years, and my father and his father before him were Republicans. Lovida’s father was a Republican in the best southern tradition. The Coleman and Hardin roots are firmly planted in the party of Lincoln. Indeed, I was born less than sixty years after Lincoln was elected president. So I tend to take a long view of the Republican Party.

      Being a registered Republican doesn’t mean I have to vote the straight party line. As a moderate on many issues, I am free to vote for the candidate who has the most integrity,...

    • FORTY-THREE Counsel for the Situation
      (pp. 366-376)

      Justice Brandeis described his legal practice before ascending to the Supreme Court as “counsel to the situation.” In his view, the lawyer was more than an adversarial advocate. The lawyer was a counselor, a negotiator, a problem solver who sought to advance the client’s objectives while maintaining the highest standards of ethics and serving the public interest.¹

      At the Senate confirmation hearing on his Supreme Court nomination, Brandeis was berated for serving as a “counsel to the situation” instead of counsel to his client. Did he not have a duty, he was asked, to represent vigorously his client’s interest, even...

  12. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 377-378)

    Having represented Frank Sinatra at the request of my law school classmate Mickey Rudin, I became a big fan of his music. Before Elvis and the Beatles, this skinny boy from New Jersey rose to the top of his profession. And he did it through sheer talent, persistence, and tenacity. He did it his own way. As his career was coming to a close, his still rich voice filled the concert hall with an anthem to a life well lived—in his own inimitable style. In my ninetieth year, the song resonates well with me. While I could never sing...

  13. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 379-380)
    William T. Coleman Jr.
  14. CHRONOLOGY OF THE LIFE OF WILLIAM T. COLEMAN JR.
    (pp. 381-387)
  15. PRINCIPAL CASES CITED
    (pp. 388-389)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 390-396)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 397-442)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 443-466)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. None)