Title: Oral History Interview with James P. Coleman, September 5, 1990. Interview A-0338.
Interviewer: Egerton, John
Interviewee: Coleman, James P.
Subjects: Mississippi--Politics and government Mississippi--Race relations School integration--Mississippi Democratic Party (Miss.) Lynching--Mississippi Segregation--Mississippi
Abstract: James P. Coleman was born and raised in Ackerman, Mississippi, in 1914. After attending the University of Mississippi and George Washington University Law School, Coleman became involved in Mississippi politics in the 1930s. He served on the staff of Congressman A. L. Ford, and went on to become a district attorney and then a judge, serving briefly on the Mississippi Supreme Court in the 1940s. From 1950 to 1956, Coleman served as the attorney general for Mississippi and was elected governor in 1956. After one term as governor, Coleman became a congressman, serving from 1960 to 1964. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals, where he served until 1981. In this interview, Coleman concentrates on Mississippi politics from the 1930s through the 1960s. Focusing specifically on the intersection of race and politics, Coleman offers his views on slavery and segregation. According to Coleman, segregation was widely accepted by both blacks and whites, although he believed integration was inevitable. Coleman notes that prominent court cases were important harbingers for racial change, but he identifies the 1948 Democratic National Convention as the true watershed moment for southern politics.