William T. Coleman, Jr., Esq. Honored with Permanent Bas-Relief Display at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

On Thursday, June 13, 2024, the William T. Coleman, Jr. Foundation, Inc. honored the legacy of William T. Coleman, Jr., Esq. with the unveiling of a sculpture that is now permanently displayed at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, in a hallowed alcove off the main lobby. Zenos Frudakis, an internationally acclaimed sculptor, was commissioned to create the bas-relief.

Coleman was a Philadelphia native, born and raised in Germantown, and served as a leading figure in some of the most transformational events our nation has experienced. Throughout his career, he was the lead attorney in the Girard College civil rights case, counsel to the creation of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and special counsel to the Warren Commission, investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He was appointed Secretary of Transportation by President Ford in 1975, becoming one of the first African Americans to serve as a cabinet member. He served as Co-Counsel with Thurgood Marshall in briefing and arguing the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, decided in 1955, and was an advisor to presidents, Congress, and the Supreme Court, for which he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. The sculpture stands as the first memorial in Philadelphia to commemorate the distinguished African American Civil Rights attorney and Cabinet Officer.

“The late William T. Coleman, Jr., was a proud Philadelphian and member of the incandescent constellation of great Americans who through tireless efforts, brilliance, and eloquence in the face of ceaseless and pervasive racism, helped to eliminate legal obstacles, improving the lives of all Americans by making America fulfill the promises for rights, freedoms, and liberty incorporated in the US Constitution,” said Lowell Thomas, Esq. “This memorial honors his incredible legacy and acknowledges one of the legal, political, statesman, and civil rights giants upon whose shoulders this great nation stands.”

“The prominent display of my dad’s sculpture at the National Constitution Center is an unsurpassed honor that is deeply cherished,” said William T. Coleman III, Esq. “More importantly, since people of color, women, and other minorities were excluded from the original constitutional compact, it represents a symbolic acknowledgment of the extraordinary contributions which these originally excluded groups have made to the evolution of our Constitution, the rule of law, and the ongoing pursuit of equality.”

“Bill Coleman broke the legal establishment color barrier when Richardson Dilworth hired him to join the Dilworth Paxson firm in 1952,” said Joseph Jacovini, Esq., Chairman Emeritus at Dilworth Paxson LLP. “He was a luminous figure and role model. It is fitting and proper that Philadelphia should honor one of its own by dedicating this memorial to his magnificent legacy.”

Coleman was a member of the Dilworth Paxson litigation department, and during his time with the firm, he worked on libel suits for a variety of clients, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. After Coleman’s death in 2017, his family, friends, and colleagues in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. created an ad hoc committee to create a public memorial for him. Donors have included Dilworth Paxson LLP, the Coleman Memorial Foundation, PECO Energy Company, Independence Blue Cross, and the Raynier Foundation.