William T. Coleman, Jr. Authors Counsel for the Situation

November 09, 2010  

Amber Burke
O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Andrea Rodeschini
O’Melveny & Myers LLP

WASHINGTON, DC ─ November 9, 2010 ─ O’Melveny & Myers LLP senior counselor and former United States Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., also known as a key strategist and co-author of the winning brief in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, has written an autobiography titled, Counsel for the Situation — Shaping the Law to Realize America’s Promise.

Recently published by Brookings Institution Press, Counsel for the Situation chronicles the obstacles Coleman faced as an American of color in the segregated times of his youth and early adulthood, his resolve and determination in breaking through those barriers, and his journey to the highest levels of government and the law. The first American of color to serve as a law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice and the first to join a major law firm in New York and Philadelphia, Coleman has throughout his distinguished career employed the tools of the consumate legal advocate as a champion of a wide range of civic and legal causes, as an advisor to several US Presidents, and as legal counsel to the nation’s top companies. In tribute to his many invaluable contributions, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

In the Foreword to Counsel for the Situation, United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer writes that “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. That story also shows us something important about the legal profession, helping us understand how in the mid-twentieth century an individual could become, at one and the same time, a great lawyer, a wise statesman, and a leader in the fight for equal rights.”

“William Coleman belongs to the diminishing breed of distinguished citizen-statesmen who never sought the limelight, but whose brilliant intellect brought him to the pinnacle of success in the legal field, whose passion for justice drove his commitment to civil rights, and whose sense of obligation to serve his country led him to the highest echelons of government,” said former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “His engaging memoir sums up his exceptional life with the insight and wisdom which have defined it.”

Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., former president and CEO of the National Urban League, said: “This must-read book is written by a truly great American who has demonstrated great love of our country. Anchored by the fundamentals of hard work, excellence, sacrifice, and purpose, Bill Coleman has written an excellent tutorial for those interested in the legal profession and public service.”

After graduating first in his class at Harvard Law in 1946, Coleman was soon on the front lines of legal battles that advanced the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to Brown v. Board of Education, he had a leading role in several other successful legal battles in pursuit of racial equality, including Bob Jones v. U.S., which upheld the government's power to revoke the tax-exempt status of private schools that discriminate on the basis of race. Coleman has served the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) almost continuously since the 1970s, through various leadership roles, including president, chairman, and co-chair emeritus of the board of directors.

A decorated public servant, Coleman was a senior counsel to the Warren Commission investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, spearheaded the deregulation of the transportation industry as US Secretary of Transportation during the Ford Administration, advised the Secretary of Defense on various post-9/11 issues, and is a lifetime trustee of the Trilateral Commission.

Coleman joined O’Melveny & Myers in its Washington, DC office in 1977 following his service as Secretary of Transportation. He has argued 19 cases in the Supreme Court of the United States and has litigated cases and advised clients across numerous industries over the past six decades.

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