Judge Coleman died Sunday, June 27 at his residence in Talladega. He grew up in Eutaw as part of a distinguished family. His grandfather, Thomas Wilkes Coleman, served on the Alabama Supreme Court, as did his oldest brother, James Samuel Coleman Jr. His parents were James Samuel Coleman and Marybelle Peteet Coleman, who was editor of The Green County Democrat. His other two brothers were Dr. Wilson M. Coleman and Charles H. Coleman.
Judge Coleman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and a law degree from the University of Alabama Law School. He was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving in France and Germany during World War II in the 36th Texas division.
After the war, he married Mary Dowdell Welch, and practiced law with her father, Gordon T. Welch, in Talladega for over 25 years. There office building is now known as the Welch-Coleman Ballroom.
He was elected to the district court judgeship for northern Talladega, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1989.
He was also an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Talladega, a post commander for the VFW, president of the Kiwanis Club, Alabama state chaplain for the Gideons, general chairman of the countywide Crusade for Christ in 1966 and a co-founder of the Samaritan House.
Talladega County Circuit Judge Julian King said, “Judge Coleman professionally and honorably served the people of Talladega County and the state of Alabama as a district judge from 1974 to 1989. In addition to his duties as a district judge, he also served as an ex officio circuit judge handling domestic relations cases. Many attorneys improved their skills of examining witnesses and litigating non-jury cases before Judge Coleman. His court assisted attorneys in being better prepared to try jury cases in circuit court, and I was fortunate enough to have been one of those.”
King went on to say, “I have known Judge Coleman and his family my whole life. We were neighbors during my youth, and I literally cannot count the number of times that I was in his home, visiting with his son Johnny. Judge was always kind and respectful of the children in our neighborhood. He will definitely be missed.”
Former Circuit Judge Jerry Fielding also knew Coleman well. “We served together starting in 1974, until he retired. I was the district judge for the south end of the county, and he was the district judge for the north end. He was an outstanding jurist who handled himself in a dignified, appropriate manner. He wanted to see justice rendered. He was a distinguished judge, and you could always be glad that he was handling difficult cases. He was also a personal friend, and he will be missed. I appreciate his service to Talladega County.”
Jeanne Rasco called Coleman’s passing “such a loss to the community, especially to the legal community. He was a kind and thoughtful decision maker, and also a neighbor. He had wisdom, kindness, and the ability to always look out for those who needed help. He was also a mentor to me, and I knew I could always go over and talk to him when I needed to. He wanted everything a certain way, so he could make sure that everyone was treated fairly.”
Judge Coleman is preceded in death by his wife, Mary D. Coleman.
He is survived by his daughter, Mary Coleman Humphreys (Mike), sons John Woodrow Coleman Jr., (Cindy) and Gordon Welch Coleman; 9 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Pallbearers will be the Honorable Julian King, Bill McGhee, Jake Montgomery, Drew Wood, the Honorable George Sims and the Honorable Hank Fannin.
The family will receive friends Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the church.
Usrey Brown-Service Funeral Home will direct the service.