William T. Coleman Jr. Honored with John Marshall Award by American Bar Association’s Justice Center
CHICAGO, July 22, 2004 – William T. Coleman Jr., a senior partner and the senior counselor in the international law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, senior director and former chairman of the board of directors of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and former U.S. secretary of transportation in the Ford cabinet, has been selected to receive the John Marshall Award, a national honor created by the American Bar Association Justice Center to recognize individuals responsible for extraordinary improvement in the administration of justice.
Coleman assisted lead counsel Thurgood Marshall in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that struck down segregation in public education systems.
“William T. Coleman Jr. has served our nation for more than half a century as a civil rights leader, a public official, an advisor to presidents, and a lawyer of the people and the corporate community,” said ABA President Dennis W. Archer. “The John Marshall Award is a fitting tribute to his distinguished career and lifetime contributions to the administration of justice.”
John M. Vittone of Washington, D.C., chief judge of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges and chair of the ABA Justice Center Coordinating Council, said, “The John Marshall Award was created to bring distinction and recognition to an individual who actively and creatively ensures that our justice system remains strong. William T. Coleman Jr. has embodied these qualities throughout his illustrious career in his pursuit of justice for all Americans.”
Coleman graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and magna cum laude and first in his class from Harvard Law School. In 1950 Coleman was enlisted by Thurgood Marshall to work with the NAACP’s LDF on five cases that led to the Brown decision. Coleman was a co-author of the brief presented to the court. Throughout his career in corporate and antitrust litigation, constitutional law, foreign trade, acquisitions, and divestitures, he remained ardently committed to civil rights and public service, including holding advisory or consultant positions to seven U.S. presidents.
Coleman became the nation’s fourth secretary of transportation in March 1975, when he was administered the oath of office at a ceremony conducted by President Gerald R. Ford at the White House.
Coleman is currently senior director of the LDF, after serving as chairman of the board for 20 years starting in 1977. His public service positions include member of the U.N. General Assembly, consultant to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, senior consultant and senior counsel to the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, member of the Federal Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and co-chairman of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa. In 1979, the president of France made Coleman an Officer of the French Legion of Honor. Coleman was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, by President Clinton in 1995.
The ABA award is named in honor of John Marshall, fourth chief justice of the United States, who is credited with establishing the independence of the judiciary and enhancing its moral authority.
The ABA Justice Center award presentation will be made Aug. 8 at the Annual Dinner in Honor of the Judiciary at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History during the ABA Annual Meeting in Atlanta. The 2004 award is a glass sculpture created by Dale Chihuly, an internationally acclaimed artist whose work is included in more than 190 museum collections worldwide. The award program is made possible through the support of LexisNexis™ , a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
The three previous recipients of the award were Howell Heflin, former U.S. senator of Alabama; Anthony Kennedy, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; and Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania who now serves as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The ABA Board of Governors created the Justice Center in 2000 to coordinate justice reform efforts and encourage lawyers, judges and citizens to work together. It includes the ABA Judicial Division, Standing Committee on Judicial Independence, Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements, Coordinating Council on Unified Family Courts, and Coalition for Justice, a group of lawyers and nonlawyers that focuses on improving state and local justice systems.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.