An Oral History

With

James C. Coleman













Interviewer: Harriet Tanzman













Tougaloo College Archives























This interview was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation Project.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Mississippi

Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and

the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.



2000

Biography



Dr. James C. Coleman was born and reared in Jackson, Mississippi. His parents are Reverend Louis Coleman and Elmer Broom Coleman, who are still in Jackson. He is the third oldest of four children, Joe, Katie, and Bonita.



Dr. Coleman was educated in the Jackson Public School District where he was graduated in the top of his class at Lanier High School. He also is a member of the Board and starred in basketball and football under the tutelage of L.T. Smith. He holds a B.S. degree from Tougaloo College where he was a three sports star, the Master's degree from Tennessee State University, and the doctorate of higher education from the University of Mississippi. He was also a member of the professional basketball team, the Harlem Magicians. He has served in many capacities in Higher Education: Acting Academic Dean, Dean of Division of Education, Athletics Director at Tougaloo and Mississippi Valley State, Coach of six different sports, Dean of Faculty, Chair of National Committee in the NAIA and NCAA, volunteer in the Jackson Public School District. He is the first African-American to integrate housing at Memphis State University, summer of 1965, first to integrate family housing at Ole Miss in 1967, first assistant basketball coach at Ole Miss in 1975. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi, NAACP, and numerous other organizations. Dr. Coleman is married to Dr. Marilyn Houston Coleman; he is the father of James, II; Tashana; Jon; Sara; and Jessica. Dr. Coleman is currently serving as Acting Dean of the Division of Education (1999-2000) and Professor of HPER at Tougaloo College where he is entering his forty-second year.

Table of Contents



Childhood 1

Attending Tougaloo College 2

Working at Tougaloo College, 1962 2

University of Tennessee, 1965 3

Integrating the dormitories at Memphis State University 3

Working at Tougaloo, 1965 4

Integrating married student housing at Ole Miss, 1967 5

The Tougaloo Nine 7

Hollis Watkins 9

Social Science forum 9

Millsaps' Dr. Charles Sallis 10

Meredith March 11

SCLC, SNCC, CORE 11

Tougaloo President George Owens 14

Tougaloo's milieu in the sixties 15

Dr. Daniel Beittel 17

Freedom Summer, 1964 18

Choctaw Indians 27

AN ORAL HISTORY



with



DEAN JAMES C. COLEMAN



This is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with Dr. James C. Coleman and is taking place on April 12, 2000. The interviewer is Harriet Tanzman.



Tanzman: OK. I'm talking with Dean Coleman, James Coleman at Tougaloo College on April 12, year 2000. Thank you for being with us, Dean Coleman.



Coleman: Thank you.



Tanzman: I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about when you were born and where, and your parents' background?



Coleman: OK. Gladly. I'm a native Mississippian. I was born and reared in Jackson, Mississippi. My parents are still living. My dad's eighty-six; be eighty-seven this year. My mom's eighty-four. I come from a family of five. At that particular time, I was the youngest. I matriculated through the Jackson public school system which was segregated at that particular time. I finished high school at Lanier in 1958, but I never had that sense of being underprepared or being culturally deprived in any way, academically, because Tougaloo had its mark on my high school and the high school curriculum. The principal, I.S. Sanders was a Tougaloo graduate who finished in 1919, somewhere around that year, and the majority of his faculty with the core curriculum were Tougaloo graduates in the liberal arts, so we had, pretty much, Tougaloo's stamp of college prep courses. And I graduated eighteen out of 167 in my class. My intention was to go to college in pre-medicine, and go into the medical field. I was involved in many high school activities, including athletics. I was in the band.



Tanzman: I understand you were a star in athletics. Am I right?



Coleman: Well, I was. I did a pretty good job. We won. In basketball and football, we won two state championships in basketball out of three years I played. And I received all state honors, and it was due to basketball that I got athletic scholarships. I was privileged to have been one of the few in the state of Mississippi to receive a four-year athletic scholarship at a major university. Creighton University offered me four years, and the University of Nebraska, in the summer of 1958. But having a sister, my oldest sister being a student here at Tougaloo, my parents were sold on Tougaloo. They couldn't afford it, but they wanted us to have the best. My parents didn't have a formal education. My mom dropped out of school and worked with a big family when she was in the fifth grade, and my dad did get to the tenth grade in high school at Saints in Lexington and to boarding school. But my dad was a truck driver and Mom worked at a cleaners, pressing clothes. So, she made about $12.50 a week. My dad made somewhere about $30. And we had a household to keep up, utilities. And it was really almost impossible to afford our going to Tougaloo, but my dad kind of ruled with a pretty strong leverage, and the coach came by one day and told my dad he wanted me to come to Tougaloo. And my dad said, "Well, you know, I love Tougaloo. When do you want him to be there?" And I was living in Omaha at that time. And so, my dad called me and said, "Look." Said, "You come on back [home]. Forget about going up there to go to school." So, I came back home. And [the rest is history].



Tanzman: Tougaloo was a struggle in terms of the pay?



Coleman: Oh. Yeah. At that time it cost $125 per semester for tuition for a day student. A commuting student you would call them today. Two-fifty a year and about $35 for general fees. And with two of us in school. So, Tougaloo didn't give, at that time, full athletic scholarships. I had a partial. So, my parents had to come up with the remainder. Of course, I did work while I was in school to help to defray some of my expenses, and it worked out real well. Consequently, I finished Tougaloo in three years.



Tanzman: You finished in sixty-one?



Coleman: I finished in sixty-one. The summer of sixty-one, and immediately I applied for graduate school, and my graduate school finances were provided by the state of Mississippi. The state of Mississippi would pay for you to go to any institution in the world to keep you out of the majority universities in the state of Mississippi.



Tanzman: The white universities.



Coleman: The white universities. I'm being real nice. (Laughter.) Yeah. And, then, you know. (Laughter.)



Tanzman: So, you went to Tennessee?



Coleman: So, I went to Tennessee [State University], and got my [master's degree].



Tanzman: What did you study in undergraduate?



Coleman: I studied health, phys-ed, and counseling. And I came back to Tougaloo and started working in sixty-two. My first paycheck here at Tougaloo, I was on a nine-month contract, and I made $250 a month here at Tougaloo in 1962. That was my salary.



Tanzman: This was as a coach?



Coleman: I was an instructor. I was assistant coach in three sports. And I was Dean of Men. I was really what they call today, was a resident counselor. All the males lived in one dormitory, and I was responsible for their livelihood in terms of their living. And so that was quite an experience. I see now the chairman of our board of trustees Reuben Anderson was one of the residents there. I can go on and name very prominent people who lived in the dormitory during the time of my supervision. Of course, we were in school together, but, like I said, I finished a year early, and I put that year into graduate school and came back the next year and started working in [teaching and] coaching. So, that was quite an experience.



Tanzman: I bet it was. You were here those two years, sixty-two, sixty-four, during that time?



Coleman: Yeah, I was here year sixty-four, and I took a leave of absence from Tougaloo. And I got married and went to the Delta. My wife, then, was from the Delta of Mississippi, and her dad was a big farmer. And I went up [there to work and learn about how to farm]. And I was assistant principal and football coach, basketball coach, counselor, teacher. You name it, that was my role.



Tanzman: Where?



Coleman: In Rosedale at West Bolivar. West Bolivar in Rosedale, in Bolivar County. And that summer of sixty-five, I decided to start working on my doctorate. So, I applied to the University of Tennessee, and I was accepted. And they had an extension in Memphis at Memphis State University in sixty-five. So, what happened is that I went to Memphis and didn't have a place to stay, so I applied for a dormitory room, and they told me at that time, they didn't have any. But they had not changed their policy of desegregating the dorms, so I checked in [at the Lorraine Hotel] with very limited [funds].



Tanzman: They did not desegregate the dorms?



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. And so, what happened is I checked in at the Lorraine Motel, and I spent three nights at my own expense until the board decided they would change their policy and integrate the dormitories. So, I integrated the dormitory at Memphis State in 1965. And what they did, they had very few air-conditioned dormitories on the campus, and the most modern dormitory on the campus was Robertson Hall which was the athletic dormitory. So, having been a coach and being in athletics, they placed me over in the athletic dorm, which was fine with me. Very convenient. It was luxury at its best. And so, I stayed there, and I got a telephone call from Dr. George Owens, in that summer, when I was up in Memphis. And [he offered me a job to come back to Tougaloo].



Tanzman: This was sixty-six?



Coleman: Sixty-five. Summer of sixty-five. And I had received a job offer at Philander Smith in Little Rock, [Arkansas,] as athletic director, head basketball coach, and head of the department in phys-ed. So, I had gone over and interviewed for the job, and I was going to accept that job. I received a call from Dr. Owens, saying that the position at Tougaloo was open as athletic director and chair of the Department of Health and Phys-Ed. And, would I come back? Well, Tougaloo being my first love--. One of my teammates and classmates here at Tougaloo, Jerry [H.] Lewis--not the comedian Jerry Lewis, but he is a comedian, too. He said, "I'm going to leave the post office, and I'm going back to Tougaloo, and I'm going to coach the basketball team." [He] said, "Come on back with me, and let's build the athletic program [back] up." To me, that was [an exciting] call, and I abandoned the idea [to go to Philander Smith]. I called the president at Philander Smith in Little Rock, and told him that Tougaloo had called for me to come back home. And he understood it. And I apologized for having to renege on my agreement with him, but he understood it. And so, I came back to Tougaloo and resumed my job here in teaching and coaching. And we built, I thought, Jerry and I over the last twenty-some years, an outstanding athletic program that went along with academics. We can proudly say that during our matriculation and tenure as coaches, 95 percent of our student athletes graduated. So, I graduated--.



Tanzman: Wow. That's a tremendous record.



Coleman: Yeah. We can point with pride [to] the young men and women who came and played for us and who are now successful in life that it points back to Tougaloo because it was our philosophy that was instilled in us by our coaches here at Tougaloo. And so, [we carried on the tradition].



Tanzman: You carried it on?



Coleman: We carried it on. That's a legacy that we'll always be proud of is our graduation rate here at Tougaloo, but it was during that time that my first wife had enrolled in the graduate program, the extension program, [Ole Miss] at Millsaps. Millsaps had an extension of Ole Miss graduate program there, and she took twelve hours. She could only take twelve hours, and the last twelve hours had to be taken on campus. And so, we were about [to move to Oxford to the main campus].



Tanzman: In Oxford, [Mississippi]?



Coleman: In Oxford. Yeah. And I said, "Well, it would be much easier for me to transfer from the University of Tennessee over to Oxford, and it would be less expensive for us to do that. And of course, I applied and transferred my credits over. And we had a son who was, at that time, about two years old. Two and a half years old.



Tanzman: This was in 1967?



Coleman: Nineteen sixty-seven. Yeah. And, what we did: I applied for housing, the married housing. And they wrote me back and told me that they didn't have any apartments available. So, we went down to [a mobile home lot] on Highway 80, and made an agreement to buy a mobile home, and of course, we had gone up to Oxford and found a spot of land that we were going to rent to place the mobile home on that property. And of course, the day before we signed the deal, I received a call from the housing department at Ole Miss, and they told me that they had an apartment for us. And this was 1967, the summer of sixty-seven. So, when we got to Ole Miss, we were really excited about it.



Tanzman: This was a university-owned apartment?



Coleman: This [was the university housing complex for married families]. Yeah. So, when we got to the university, we pulled up. I had this long trailer attached to a vehicle, and went inside to get the keys and sign the housing agreement, and I extended my hand, being a person who has never met a stranger and being in athletics and an outgoing guy. The director of housing refused to shake my hand. He just pointed and said, "Sit down there."



Tanzman: This old tradition.



Coleman: Yeah, the old tradition. So, we talked, and I thanked him. And he gave us the apartment keys, and directions to get to the apartment. When we pulled up into the parking lot, I mean, you'd be surprised. People came out from everywhere to see us. They wanted to see the type of furniture that we used. It was really amazing.



Tanzman: You were the first black people?



Coleman: We were the first black family to live in the Village. That's what it's called at Ole Miss. In the summer of sixty-seven and sixty-eight. And they would come over. There were a lot of people from the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky, and they were really in earnest because they had never been around blacks. They didn't know. They were curious about [us]. I would cook out, and they would come stand around to see.



Tanzman: To see what you were eating?



Coleman: What we were eating. They would come over.



Tanzman: That you were eating real food. (Laughter.)



Coleman: Yeah. Real food. You know. And until this day, I have some lifelong friends that I made at Ole Miss, and we got to the point where we would [babysit for each other's children]. I was the first black to play on the golf course owned by the university and had guys from Kentucky and Missouri. We were all neighbors. And they said, "Let's go and play golf." And then we did so many things together, and it was really true bonding. I have always said, and I still hold to this belief that--and in a lot of Southerners--that once you can convince a Southerner, you know where he stands. And once you convince [him what is right]--and I've seen this; I've experienced it--you've got a true, loyal person. And I've had that to happen to me throughout my life. And they would keep my kid; we would keep their kids. And they would go out to dinner and those different kinds of things. And it was just a beautiful exchange. So, my experiences, even though in most of my classes, I was the only black in my classes, I had a [lot of dialogues and exchanging of ideas].



Tanzman: You were studying education?



Coleman: Higher education. Yes. And so what happened is: my experience, my major advisor and the chair of the department was a Southerner. He was born in Savannah, Georgia; reared in that area; graduate of Citadel; and a retired Army colonel. His wife would write the Pope quite often. She was always a subject of the daily newspaper there on campus about some of the antics that she would pull. I mean, she was very controversial, and he was strictly conservative. And he was the type of guy that was real militaristic in the classroom. And so, that [was quite a challenge in the classroom].



Tanzman: Frightened everybody.



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. He was like that. Intimidating, could be. But the good thing that happened: one of the experiences here at Tougaloo, I was exposed to an international faculty here at Tougaloo. So, therefore, I was not in awe of nonblack people.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. People came from different countries here?



Coleman: From all over the world and different countries. You know. Ernst Borinski. I could just go on and on with the different nationalities that I was exposed to. Ronald Schnell. The people that I was exposed to here at Tougaloo gave me that confidence that I could interact with people from all over the world, so, it was no big deal for me at Ole Miss to be in a class with all whites. And I never felt, like I said earlier, that I wasn't prepared because I was. I never felt deprived academically because Tougaloo afforded us a liberal arts education.



Tanzman: Yeah. Excellent.



Coleman: Yeah. And I remember there were times that I would create a dialogue in the class of discussion. And he would say--. And I said, "Well, let me tell you this."



"No. You don't tell me. I tell you." That kind of attitude. And, interesting. My classmates were basically all white males, and we'd have a break, and they would talk. We would talk. Basically they'd want to talk about sports. I guess they figured that all blacks could do was dialogue about sports and not current events.



Tanzman: That would be the subject you know?



Coleman: Yeah. Subject that I know. And what would happen is I would see them outside of class, and they would be with their white friends, and they'd be in front of the [student] union because the union at that time housed the post office and bookstore and all those [amenities], and they would see me coming, and they would turn their backs. You know, just like an ostrich with his head in the sand, that you couldn't see him. And I would walk right up into the group and start talking. You know. But I had that kind of outgoing personality, but it was still some closed societies at that time. But I like to feel that I had a lot to offer during that time.



Tanzman: You had a lot of confidence in your own mind and your abilities.



Coleman: Yeah. I had a lot of confidence. Yeah. And then my wife, at times, she was treated like a desk in her class. There were times she was the only black in her classes, and so, we brought the issue up to the dean of the School of Education about her particular situation, and of course, they really did. They had other complaints, and they did release that particular professor in reading. But it was quite an experience, and I'm still very fond of the university. I had some great experiences up there.



Tanzman: Well, Dean Coleman, I wonder if we can get back to Tougaloo and come back a decade, because, I know you started there in the late fifties, and there was a lot happening, both in the state, in Jackson, and the students' involvement. And I know that started early with Medgar Evers and students that were getting involved in the Tougaloo community. Now when you were an undergraduate, and then when you came back, you were beginning to tell me as an undergraduate, what was going on in the community that the students were becoming involved in in the late fifties, early sixties? The atmosphere?



Coleman: Well, the atmosphere was changing. One thing, I can truthfully say that the uniqueness of Tougaloo that really stands out is that Tougaloo promotes the idea [that] students be self-directed [learners]. And that students be outspoken on issues, how they feel both philosophically and politically. And that's the nature of Tougaloo's philosophy. And it was my classmates and schoolmates, the Tougaloo Nine, that took it upon themselves. Now, Medgar was out here quite often. I knew Medgar when I was in high school because Medgar and his [wife] Myrlie would attend all of the high school games at Lanier, and I knew him personally. And of course we had the NAACP chapter here on campus, and he was here quite often, here on campus because Tougaloo was a rallying point, and Tougaloo was a spot where strategies and meetings and everything else took place here on the campus before they were implemented off the campus.



Tanzman: This was the end of the fifties?



Coleman: This was the end of the fifties. And when the Tougaloo Nine went down with the exception of Ike Lassiter[?]. Ike was from--. Albert was from Vicksburg. We had most of the students were out of staters. Most were out of staters, and that took a courageous effort for them to go down. Having been reared in the Jackson area, knowing how law enforcement treated blacks, and knowing the viciousness and the hate and the brutality that took place with the police department and city officials, I mean, I still sort of shiver when I think of the fact that these nine kids put their lives on the line at a sit-in at the library. And of course after that, then it was the sit-ins and voter registration, and I got a chance to see all of it, firsthand here at Tougaloo.



Tanzman: I know there were many students here at that time.



Coleman: Yeah.



Tanzman: Some of whom were involved, and some weren't. Were you involved as an undergraduate at all, or were you an observer?



Coleman: I was basically an observer, and I was one of those, and I wouldn't be afraid and ashamed to say it, I was one of those observers, they had--. Maybe I'll put it this way, in hindsight: I was one of those who was really supportive on campus, and I was probably afraid because of the financial situation of my parents and the possibility of them losing their jobs. And they had common labor jobs, and I knew there was a struggle just for us to be here at Tougaloo, economically and financially. And of course, it was not until I became a professional working, and then, that's when I was able to really make my decision and not worry about my parents losing their jobs. And of course, I started supporting then in the movement and the marches and those kinds of things.



Tanzman: So, some of it was the possibility of economic reprisal?



Coleman: It was solely economic reprisal that I chose not to participate.



Tanzman: You came back here in sixty-two as a teacher?



Coleman: Came back in sixty-two as a teacher and a coach. Yeah.



Tanzman: I know there was a lot of things going on sixty-two to sixty-four, and onward, partly here at Tougaloo. People coming in from different organizations and just getting very involved in the community. Partly more intensified with the boycotts and everything. Could you tell me a little about that era and the average student? You know, what the student on the campus was--?



Coleman: It was quite a new experience for students coming from remote, rural areas. And I can think. I have flashbacks of students that came here from remote areas in Mississippi, and they got involved. And it was students that you had no idea would have the courage to leave and go, and lead voter registration drives. I'm thinking of one particular young man who ran track for me.



Tanzman: What was his name?



Coleman: Hollis Watkins. And he would tell you, and every time he sees me--. I nicknamed Hollis, "Freedom." He ran track for me. He was a distance runner, and Hollis--. I think of Hollis. I think about the times he would leave, and Medgar, and [others] would call on him. He was always there, traveling all over the country. And I think of Joyce Ladner. I think of Joan Trumpauer who was white, and she came down, and she and Joyce were so close. And Dora, Joyce's sister--.



Tanzman: Dora?



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. And I can think of people that really would leave in the middle of the night and go to the Delta regions and remote regions of the state and lead voter registration drives and then, Ed King was quite involved. Ed and Dick Johnson, John Saulter. We had a lot of faculty [members involved in the civil rights movement].



Tanzman: You had a lot of faculty?



Coleman: Yeah. We had a lot of faculty support here on campus with the movement. I can remember the time when Stokely Carmichael, as he was called then, and H. Rap Brown, and Julian Bond, and John Lewis, and the Student Nonviolent [Coordinating Committee] SNCC, they would make it to the campus. Any of those political activists could make it to the gates of the campus, they felt secure.



Tanzman: This was a safe place?



Coleman: This was a safe haven for them. And it was at that particular time an oasis in Mississippi where the only place where a mixed audience could get together and congregate in fellowship and strategize and make plans and have forums. Dr. Borinski was really instrumental in bringing international renowned people to the campus to speak to social science forums. Here you've got Stokely one night. You might have Ralph Bunch the U.N. secretary. Then, you've got Robert Kennedy coming. And it goes on and on, the list. So, it was so much exposure to us.



Tanzman: Did you go to these forums?



Coleman: Oh, yeah. I made all of them.



Tanzman: These were inter-racial forums in social science?



Coleman: Oh, yeah. And I tell you, we didn't have [a security force]. We had a one-man security force. He was a mill-worker by day, and he would come on in the evening time just to break of dawn, and he would walk around. Had a cane. He reminds me of Barney Fife in a sense, where he had a pistol on his side with his holster, and he wasn't a good, accurate shooter. And he would go to sleep around 10:30 because of having worked in the sawmill. And of course, I can remember [when we would take his revolver when he went to sleep around 10:30 p.m. Between 12 and 1 a.m., I would get a knock on my door, Room 29 in Galloway saying, "Dead ass, where is my gun?"]



Tanzman: He was the security person?



Coleman: He was our security person.



Tanzman: Overnight?



Coleman: Overnight. I mean, we all knew where he would be.



Tanzman: Asleep. (Laughter.) Sleeping away.



Coleman: And of course, I can remember when the president deputized parts of the faculty and students, President Owen did, where we had to watch the campus at night. We were walking right around the campus at night.



Tanzman: What years was this?



Coleman: This was in the--. I'd say around sixty-five, sixty-six, sixty-seven. Somewhere around in there. And we had several crosses burned on the campus, one in front of the president's home. You almost had a twenty-four hour watch of law enforcement at the gate, watching cars come on and off. And when we would have forums, they would take down license plate numbers of the whites who came on campus. Well, Tougaloo at that time had a real good relationship with Millsaps, with Charles Sallis at Millsaps. Dr. Sallis.



Tanzman: This was in the early sixties?



Coleman: Well, it's always been in the fifties and the sixties. Yeah. That they would come to the campus and fellowship and see these speakers because they really weren't privy to see a lot and hear a lot of these people. But coming back to Stokely and that group, I would open the basement of [Judson Cross Hall dorm for men].



Tanzman: You were in charge of the halls?



Coleman: I was in charge of the building. Yeah. I was the Dean of Men. They no longer have that [title]; they have the resident counselors. They put it that way. And I would let the people sleep down there because they had no other places to sleep. And so, they would make it to the campus. I never shall forget the Meredith March in which we had, I really estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30,000 or 40,000 people here on campus. When we had the big concert, Sammy Davis had a helicopter to fly in and land out on the football field. That's the spot where the Health and Wellness building is now. James Brown [came in] on a jet. He brought his band down, and Martin Luther King and Dick Gregory. Where the Alumni House is now was the academic dean's home, A.A. Branch. That's where he and his wife, Rose Branch, lived, and that was the house where all of the heads of their organizations, political organizations, would meet and map out the strategy for the upcoming marches. And you had Marlon Brando.



Tanzman: This was in sixty-six. June, 1966.



Coleman: Sixty-six. Yeah, you had Marlon Brando. You had Burt Lancaster, Rafer Johnson[?], Tony Francisco. You had a lot of your Hollywood entertainers came and marched shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King and all of the group.



Tanzman: What was the response of the students on the campus?



Coleman: Exciting. Bewildered. In awe. It was so many people here on the campus that the students, just [got wrapped up in the excitement]. It was mind-boggling. I can remember being over [Brownlee Hall], supervising the gymnasium, and what I did, I opened up the restroom facilities for them where they could shower. And of course we had campus RVs. We had [all types of campers]; you name it. People sleeping out in the cars. You had groups meeting. Farmer would have his group in one section of the campus. Stokely would have his group in one area. So, they were all over. It was almost like there was a fight for leadership, but they all [came together under Dr. King's leadership].



Tanzman: You mean different organizations?



Coleman: Different organizations.



Tanzman: SCLC? SNCC?



Coleman: SCLC. Yeah.



Tanzman: CORE?



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah.



Tanzman: Would each have their own separate strategy sessions?



Coleman: Each their own strategy sessions. Yeah. But one thing they did--. And it was Dick Gregory who was really responsible for really pulling all the groups together. I never shall forget that. It was at one time, a couple of groups wanted to split off and go on and do their own thing, but eventually it was Dick Gregory and Sammy Davis was in that group, too. That they decided that we'll go in en masse, and that we'll all go together, and that was unity at its best.



Tanzman: So, they pulled the group together?



Coleman: They pulled the group together. I give that credit more so to Dick Gregory. It was something to just walk around and see all of these people who were willing to put their lives on the line. And that march looked like forever. We started out here from the campus. Now, I wasn't a nonviolent person. I never shall forget that. I had a little pearl-handled twenty-two that I kept in my back pocket, and I had me a long rod that I carried with me and a towel wrapped around my neck, and my shorts, and when we made that trip from down State Street, across Northside Drive, down to Bailey Avenue and on down to the state capitol, and when we got to the state capitol, you had all the state troopers in the state of Mississippi surrounding the capitol, all the way around. And we anticipated, and there were people lined along the way, the route which we took, gaining support and gathering just like a wild fire. People joining us in going down there.



Tanzman: People, just townspeople came and joined on?



Coleman: Yeah. Townspeople just joined. Yeah. And then you had, on the front row, you had your Hollywood entertainers on the front row with Dr. King and all of that crew. And it was a force. It was a force to be reckoned with.



Tanzman: Yes. Definitely.



Coleman: And I'll tell you, there was another group that always stood around and stood out. The Deacons of Defense from down in Bogalusa, [Louisiana].



Tanzman: Mm-hm.



Coleman: Yeah. That was an interesting group.



Tanzman: Yeah. They protected the march.



Coleman: Oh, yeah. Yeah. They were a force to be reckoned with. But the students were very supportive. I got a chance to meet Dr. King one on one, in the early sixties, and he spent a lot of time here at Tougaloo. Like I said, Tougaloo was an oasis, and Tougaloo was a place where, you know, once you saw them and they would come to classes and discuss their strategies in classes and, you know, you'd say, "Hey. We're a part of this." And that's how we felt about it. But it was still that uniqueness of Tougaloo, that self-directed learners making the choices. And Tougaloo prepared our students for leadership roles.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Now in the era, backtracking a bit to sixty-four and sixty-three around Tougaloo, I know that some of the students became SNCC organizers. Or they became full-time and left or work-study and so on, but you were a student from fifty-eight to sixty-one, and you had financial considerations and other considerations. What I'm wondering about is, for the average student, living through this era with so much activity and with so much involvement of students with Medgar in Jackson and around the state, were you involved during that time or were you also very involved with the sports and other things on the campus?



Coleman: I was very involved with sports. [Sports] was a way, a means to an end for me. That was how I eventually [finished school]; Tougaloo awarded me a full scholarship. An athletic grant, I'll put it that way. And I was able to work on campus to supplement my income for my living expenses. Very limited jobs during that period on the campus and very limited off-campus jobs for students during that time. And so, really [Tougaloo was my life].



Tanzman: This was a financial struggle for many people.



Coleman: It was a financial struggle for many people, and it was a financial struggle for the college because they had threatened our charter.



Tanzman: When was this?



Coleman: In the sixties. Yeah. The state. Matter of fact, Brad Dye, former lieutenant governor, was one of the proponents of trying to take away our charter. It was during that period where Tougaloo had to go through a name change. It was originally founded as Tougaloo University. Then it became Tougaloo College. And of course Tougaloo alumni merged with Southern Christian Institute [alumni] down in Edwards. They call it Mount Beulah.



Tanzman: Oh, yes.



Coleman: Uh-huh. So, those two merged, and it became Tougaloo Southern Christian College. But somewhere in the early sixties, there was a federal deal that they were dealing with separation of church and state, and that if it had a religious connotation to it, they were trying to withhold federal funds from going to institutions with religious affiliations, and those kinds of things. So, Tougaloo felt that federal funds was really their main bloodline of the college. So, Tougaloo went back and changed it's charter back to Tougaloo College. Back to Tougaloo College because Tougaloo felt that there was the threat of losing federal support.



Tanzman: And was it felt that that was happening because people were involved in movement? Or this was just happening?



Coleman: It was just happening. Yeah. It was just happening. It was just happening because you could see a school like Texas Christian University. All schools with religious names. And so, it changed back to that, but we were struggling during that time, and I think about the college having to bail students out of jail and President Owens was put in there as an interim, and eventually made president. And here is a black man, in the state of Mississippi, a native Mississippian, born and reared and educated at Tougaloo, in Jackson, and going to Rankin County where they, at that time, during that period, a lot of our kids wore long hair. And they would shave their heads when they put them in jail. And that was a form of hazing and harassment. And especially, it was a known thing, if you went to Madison County or if you went to Rankin County Jail, you were going to be abused and beaten as a prisoner.



Tanzman: Yes. Very dangerous places.



Coleman: It was dangerous. Extremely dangerous, and I can see, right now, when President Owens would drive over and get those students out of jail in Brandon, Rankin County, Mississippi. It's unbelievable. It's incomprehensible to even think about it; that he did it. He went down to Jackson City Jail to bail these kids out, and a lot of times the college would put up the bail to get the kids out.



Tanzman: To get the kids out?



Coleman: Yeah. I mean, that in itself speaks for Tougaloo's commitment to its students and its community.



Tanzman: What about the students in the sixties, sixty-two, sixty-three, when the mass demonstrations were going on, when there was a lot happening in downtown Jackson, when Medgar was still alive, with the students. And also the summer of sixty-four. What about the average student here in terms of some of the ones who maybe were not so involved? And the faculty that was not so involved?



Coleman: Well, let me tell you. During that period, if my memory serves me correctly, during those periods we had some high-profile students. I think of Constance Slaughter Harvey. Constance was the first female Student Government Association president at Tougaloo, and she was extremely politically active.



Tanzman: What year was that?



Coleman: It was in the early sixties.



Tanzman: Beginning of the sixties?



Coleman: Yeah, it was right in the middle of the sixties when Constance and--



Tanzman: --Bennie?



Coleman: And Bennie Thompson, [Wayne]. We had people, say in the middle of the sixties, middle on up. I forget my years, sometimes. I know they were very active. Bennie was very active. Bennie was captain of my baseball team. I was coaching then, and Bennie was the captain of my baseball team. Bennie has always been a leader. And of course, that was during the period of time where our kids were really, extremely politically active. We had a political action committee on campus, made up of students. So, they were always involved in challenging the administration, and challenging the system, but that was something that was instilled in them when they first got here, and of course, it carried on, and I look at them, and I [am delighted, having watched them develop into productive citizens].



Tanzman: The demands on Tougaloo, itself.



Coleman: Demands. Yeah. Demands. That's true.



Tanzman: To do what?



Coleman: Demands, well, to go out and make a difference. Yeah. To be global and go out and make a difference and then to humanity and itself that helping and providing services. We've always had outreach programs and community outreach programs here on the campus where our students gave back to the community, and worked in the community and they became involved so we're part of the system of helping people. And so, that was instilled.



Tanzman: During that period that there was very intense involvement--I know that continued, but, you know, sixty-three, sixty-four, sixty-two, when kids were very involved in the community, but there was, you were saying the violence, the cross burning, you know, a lot of that happening--were you involved during that time? Or, how were you involved during that time?



Coleman: Yeah. Like I said, I became politically involved once I became a full-time faculty, coach here, then I had financial independence. OK? And so, therefore, I could speak out. I wasn't the kind that was down in front of Woolworth's and those kinds of places. The little bit that I made, I would help and make contributions to the cause, financial contributions to the cause.



Tanzman: Would help financially [the] NAACP Youth Council?



Coleman: Yeah. The NAACP. Yeah. And of course, like I said, there were other things that I was able to do, like help with housing, and whatever some of the needs were of some of our students. The faculty was always supportive and there to help them in their plight.



Tanzman: Were a lot of the students afraid during that period of what was going to happen to them?



Coleman: No, not so much of what was going to happen to them, but what was going to happen to their parents. Loss of jobs. We had even more difficulty when we tried to place our students [in schools to do student teaching]. Those who were going into teacher education. Placing them into schools where they could do their student teaching. Placing them where they could get full employment because some of the school districts would not hire Tougaloo students for fear of those students bringing their political views to the district and disrupting the system.



Tanzman: One was white-listed, instead of black-listed.



Coleman: Yeah. And, so, therefore, they didn't want Tougaloo students because they felt that they respected Tougaloo students as being intelligent and [politically active], but they felt that they were infiltrated and they were Communist-inspired. Uh-huh. Because there was a perception in the state of Mississippi that Dr. Borinski and [others], of course, through propaganda, they would say that he was a member of the Communist organization, and he came and taught us all of these ideas. And to go against the sovereign state of Mississippi, and of course, having an international faculty, and the faculty was supportive of the students, and they felt that the president should be able to control the student body and the faculty. And which [at] Tougaloo, that has never happened because we've had freedom of expression. And that was always respected, and I can remember during the early period of Dr. Owens' administration, he believed in, even in debates, you come out with consensus. Even in decision-making, consensus. Dialogue: influence me to your thinking or I'll influence you to my thinking. We need to come out on a [common view].



(End of tape one, side one. The interview continues on tape one, side two.)



Coleman: --and supported the movement. I can remember during those early years, those lean years, when it was difficult for Tougaloo to meet its payroll. And because of the cutbacks, Tougaloo, during the early years, the latter part of the fifties and early sixties, didn't receive that much local support from businesses. It was pretty much nothing coming from local business people because they didn't want to be [identified as helping Tougaloo College].



Tanzman: Was that because they saw Tougaloo as a hotbed of activity?



Coleman: It was a hotbed of activities, and it was disrupting the sovereign way of life in Mississippi. The old way. The old guard, and they felt that that would have been an economical pressure on them, even being associated [and] having donated [to the college]. You know. To donate to Tougaloo if you had a local business, and it would be known, then that means you condone what they're doing. Then you're trying to change the standards and you're trying to change the customs and tradition of Mississippi. So, [the] support [was not there for Tougaloo].



Tanzman: It was tough.



Coleman: It was tough. It was real tough. It was real tough. I oftentimes think of Robert Wilder[?] who was the chair of our board. Robert Wilder was an Easterner from Pennsylvania.



Tanzman: When was this? When was he chair?



Coleman: Wilder was chair in the fifties and in the sixties. He's chairman emeritus, now. The mansion next door is named after Robert Wilder, and to show you how fate has made its turn, his son Robert Jr. is on our board. And it was Robert Wilder who would send money down when the college couldn't meet its payroll. And then we had the church, of course, Disciples of Christ. During that period, Disciples of Christ were very instrumental in supporting us financially. The American Missionary Association supported us financially [as well as the United Board of Christian Mission].



Tanzman: Where did the pressure come from? I know that Dr. Beittel, the former president, was basically forced out. Where did that pressure come from?



Coleman: Yeah. That pressure pretty much came from the board. Dr. Beittel, being in the position of president, you've got to be a fundraiser. If you're in a private institution, you've got to be able to go out and get money. And I remembered doing my research for my dissertation, at Amistad Research Center when it was on Dillard's campus in New Orleans, back in the mid-seventies, I read a lot about private colleges. Black private colleges, and Fred Brownlee was the general secretary of the American Missionary Association of the board, and Fred called all the shots out of New York, and I would read where Beittel was president of Talladega and some of the similar problems that he had over there.



Tanzman: In terms of raising money?



Coleman: Raising money. Yeah. Yeah. And he was a very good man, but he was not the kind of person that really fitted into [Tougaloo's community]. Having had that experience at Talladega, which is a sister school of Tougaloo, you would have thought that he would have learned something, and of course, Dr. Owens was business manager over there, working at Talladega, and I read all about what had taken place [during Beittel's tenure through] their minutes, the board reports went to Fred Brownlee, and of course all of that is found at Amistad. And so, he wasn't a person who went out into the community. He wasn't accepted into the community, even in the white community. And it wasn't until George Owens got in there and George knew that they knew that George was a Mississippian and Dr. Owens was a good person. He had established himself, and even in the good-old-boy network in the white community, they recognized him as a man of integrity. And I think that was the reason why we got a lot of things done. Matter of fact, I know so, because of his character and because of who he was that we had a lot of support, and he garnered the white support.



Tanzman: I see.



Coleman: And he was the person that really started garnering the white support locally, and local business people and all of that. And so, they felt comfortable with him because he was a Mississippian.



Tanzman: I see. That was a big difference.



Coleman: Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah. A big difference. Yes.



Tanzman: And those students that were here, like, summer of sixty-four when I guess Free Southern Theater came here, and there were SNCC workers on campus and CORE workers on campus, and people. Could you describe the atmosphere a little bit of that summer to the students? I know you were still here. (Laughter.)



Coleman: Yeah. It was a free spirited affair. I think that was the turn and the beginning of different styles of dress. Different--the free-spirited style.



Tanzman: The dungarees? (Laughter.)



Coleman: The dungarees. The beads. There was sort of an [anything-goes approach]. I would look at it and coin it as, maybe, the hippie movement was beginning because a lot of our kids came from rural backgrounds and here's a free spiriter. And then you had a lot of--now how should I coin this? It was free spirited. Free spirited can entail a lot of things. OK?



Tanzman: Culturally. (Laugher.)



Coleman: Culturally. Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of our kids experienced, and they moved in that direction. You know. They moved in that direction from their rural and humble upbringing to new habits of what they wanted to do, and styles of dress, and you know, all of that. It was sort of a [new lifestyle]. It wasn't a revolution, but it was a change, and a crossing-over into something that's totally different.



Tanzman: The mores.



Coleman: Yeah. The mores. Yeah. You know. They were breaking down those mores and customs and everything. Traditions of the average black family. And then it was something for [them to experience]. I think about this quite often. It was something for students to be on a first-name basis with some of their professors. We had young, white professors, and they would want them to call them by their first name.



Tanzman: Bill Malesh and some of those folks?



Coleman: Yeah. And so, all of them started--. That was different for our students. That was really different for them. And like I said, I coined this phrase: we were free spirited; we could mean a lot of things. OK. (Laughter.) Yeah, like you said, the mores and the folklore and traditions and all those things sort of made an about-face. It was a change. But the students had awareness.



Tanzman: They had awareness?



Coleman: They had awareness of what was going on around them. And it made them become politically active and involved. Like I said, they were aware, and then they wanted more. It sort of whet their hunger and their thirst, and they wanted more.



Tanzman: They wanted more what?



Coleman: They wanted more in terms of freedom. It opened up the intellectual pursuit because the average student--I would say the average black kid during that time was very structured into the mold of the traditional black family system. Here they got a chance to question that system.



Tanzman: And they kept questioning.



Coleman: And they kept questioning, and they kept questioning why. I never shall forget. And it might have been during that period where we reorganized the freshman studies program, and I think the students were a political action group. They were concerned about the fact that they were being programmed with the European style of learning, and the type of books that they were reading and the type of courses that they were being exposed to. I think this was a period that they burned the books.



Tanzman: They burned the history books?



Coleman: They burned all of the books that had been ordered for them through a grant. A grant was given. I think it was the Ford or Lily Foundations grant. And all of their professors were white in the social science division at that time, so the political action group [questioned the motives and philosophy of the freshman program]. I think I'm talking about the right period. Sometimes I might get ahead of myself with that, but like I said, there was an awareness.



Tanzman: Were they demanding black studies?



Coleman: Black studies. Yeah.



Tanzman: Black history?



Coleman: Black history. Yes. Yes. They were demanding more.



Tanzman: Late sixties?



Coleman: Yeah. Late sixties. Yeah. Yeah. But, like I said, I think if I had to characterize the movement of the students during that period, it was that there was an awareness that things were happening other than just in Mississippi. They focused more on national news, what was happening with Jesse Jackson and his group over at A and T in North Carolina. OK. What was happening in Baton Rouge with Rap Brown at Southern University in Baton Rouge. OK. What was happening in Atlanta, with the students in Atlanta. So, they were focusing in on the schools, HBCU [historically black colleges and universities] schools around the country, and their involvement in the movement.



Tanzman: They were really broadening their knowledge and information.



Coleman: It was broadening the knowledge and information. So, you pretty much had a network [that] had been established, and there was a sharing with that network, so, they became more involved nationally with the political scene. They became more aware of segregation and its impact economically and everything else, culturally, and everything else on their communities. And they wanted to bring about a difference and a change.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. So, they thought in terms of connecting with other people in the country who were fighting for the same things?



Coleman: That's it. That's absolutely correct. Absolutely correct. Yeah.



Tanzman: That's terrific.



Coleman: So, I saw that trend, and it helped a lot of people, especially Tougaloo students because there was an uprise at Mississippi Valley, and it was as a result, during the midsixties, an uprise at Mississippi Valley by the student body president who was a Trinidadian, and he had [a number of home boys here at Tougaloo who ran track for me. And they kept him informed as to what Tougaloo students were doing].



Tanzman: Wilhelm Joseph?



Coleman: Yeah. So, Wilhelm [Joseph]. My track team, at that time--. Most of my track athletes and soccer players were from Trinidad, Tobago, and Tunapuna, and Barbados. So, Wilhelm was--. I never shall forget. A good friend of mine, Dr. White, was the president, and they had an uprising up there and Wilhelm was at the head of that uprise. There was another young man [from Trinidad by the name of Wilson, a home boy of Wilhelm who was active in student government at Valley].



Tanzman: This was the end of the sixties.



Coleman: It was, yeah, right at the end of them. So, all of that was brewing. Then, if you look at, you had the Jackson State uprising, at that time, and it had an impact across the campus. I remember one particular situation where a young man who came from Woodville, Mississippi, was at Alcorn, and he started an uprising at Alcorn, and they kicked him out of school, and Tougaloo took him in. [His name is Benjamin Shepard].



Tanzman: Oh. He came to a safe haven.



Coleman: Yeah. Came to a safe haven. [When I spoke with the guy, I found out that he was a member of my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi]. In other words, his presence and fitting in at Tougaloo was just perfect. It was a perfect marriage. He was a classmate, fraternity brother of mine, and he retired as the vice-president of academic affairs at Southern Illinois University. He went on to big things, and he's still there. But he didn't fit in, and the president kicked him out of school because he tried to organize [students] there at Alcorn, but he came to Tougaloo. There were many cases where students was at other schools and they wanted to speak out, and they transferred to Tougaloo.



Tanzman: They could have more freedom here.



Coleman: They could have more freedom to express the ideology and all of those kinds of things. So, it worked out in many ways, but I could see that trend in the sixties. In the early sixties, especially after the sit-in at the library.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Mm-hm. It was the beginning of something.



Coleman: The beginning of something. And, of course, it was [that] they started being more attuned to the newscast. They were able to decipher the tone of the news in the local [area, and] the biases of the local TV channels in the reporting of information in the media.



Tanzman: They were more critical.



Coleman: They were more critical of what was happening because it was distorted in a way that didn't tell the true picture of what was happening.



Tanzman: Yeah. And they had lived that picture, so I guess they knew the difference.



Coleman: They had lived that picture. Yeah. That's absolutely correct. Absolutely correct.



Tanzman: There's a lot more. (Laughter.)



Coleman: OK. Go ahead on. Go right on.



Tanzman: Well, let me--. OK. So, in challenging that they were also learning about how the media was depicting student activities and campus activities and the greater picture.



Coleman: Absolutely. And they knew the real, true picture. And so, they became very skeptical of print media and voice media. And when you had--. I never shall forget this guy; I can see his picture on the newspaper, not Woody Asah but--. He's dead now. And he had this logo, and he'd come on the weather. He was a weather man, but he would always have snide remarks and racist views that he would say on the news. His own opinions and everything, and it was distorted. And you knew that he was not telling the truth, giving a true picture of the news.



Tanzman: Do you find that the students--? Well, it's a long subject, but the students that you have today? You're dean of higher education, now? Or, what?



Coleman: No. Of education. Do I find?



Tanzman: Do you find that some of that tradition is continued?



Coleman: Yes. Yes.



Tanzman: Of critical thinking?



Coleman: Critical thinking, but there is a period of passiveness, now. I've seen this mood swing take place, say every twelve years, or fifteen years. I am teaching second generation students. I taught their parents, and I've taught them. I look at Constance Slaughter Harvey. Then, I look at her daughter, Constance, and she is carrying on that same type of aggressiveness of concern. I look at Reuben's daughter. [Judge] Reuben Anderson. Rainer was politically active here as a student in the pre-law club. She was aware. She was carrying on. I can just go and name student after student who really carried that same aggressiveness as their parents. Then, on the other hand, I've seen those students who was very [quiet]. Their parents were aggressive, and they are passive. I've seen that, and they're [good and exciting students].



Tanzman: Are they more concerned about what their career and what their future is going to be?



Coleman: Not really. Some of them are. Some of them are. And some are just more free-spirited than their parents. Yeah, free-spirited means that it's just any way the wind blows, you know, is fine. And right now, what is happening around them are exciting times.



Tanzman: They're not as focused?



Coleman: They're not as focused. That's really what the word is. They're not as focused as their parents. Then, their parents will say, "What about so-and-so? I want you to have a

talk."



I say, "I'll be glad to." Then I call them in and get in after them. You know. And then tell them about the struggle that their parents went through. Say, "Here, you've got it. You have it all. And then, you're making no kind of effort to try to move and try to be goal-oriented. You know. You've had it on Easy Street, and your parents didn't sacrifice and do all those kinds of things. And they struggled to try to get through school." Well, sometimes I make an impact on calling the second-generation in [for conferences].



Tanzman: Giving them some idea of where they came from?



Coleman: Where they came from. Yeah. I can remember situations where a prominent family in Jackson, [their] son came out here, and he was really indecisive as to what he wanted to do and how he was going to get there. And I told him--. One night I called him at home. And I felt that I could--. You know. His parents had provided him with everything. But something was missing. And I said, "Look." I said, "I can remember when your dad wanted to go to Tougaloo so bad. He came to Tougaloo and tried out for football, and he transferred in. And he cried like a baby because he didn't have the resources to stay here at Tougaloo to get an education. That's how bad he wanted to be here. And he wound up at [another sister school]. But his love was truly here for Tougaloo." I say, "Your mom came. Your mom used to bring you to class, when you were a baby, and you crawled around on the floor in the classroom, because they couldn't afford to [provide] day care services. You know. Child care services for you. And then, to make these sacrifices for you, for them to make the quality of life for you, better than they had it." And so, that type of history that they didn't know, but coming from someone outside of the family who was connected with the family indirectly through the college. That made some impact. But I found the students nowadays, they're not challenging in terms of the system. They don't question.



Tanzman: They don't question the system?



Coleman: No, they don't question. We have a few, you know, would make a stand. And I think it's geared toward the type of student government leadership. I found that to make a difference. We've had some, I can remember in the sixties, where they came to arrest a student government official on campus. They had been barred from campus, I think because of political actions or something he did that went against college policy, and I think [he came] back on campus and they had the sheriff of Madison County to get him off campus. And boy, the student body [had an] uproar, and they was ready to [riot. Cool heads prevailed, and the students were told the true facts. And they understood the college's stand on that matter].



Tanzman: They all came and supported him?



Coleman: In support of him. And the sheriff came up, and the sheriff went in the trunk of his car and pulled out his shotgun, and he was prepared. Now, this guy was known to shoot.



Tanzman: What was his name?



Coleman: He's retired and dead and gone. But it was one of the coaches, [that came up and convinced the sheriff that he would bring him up to the station]. And this is why I often say that you'd be surprised the influence that coaches and people who've been around campus that know the history had a lot of influence on the students. And he was able to quell the crowd down.



Tanzman: Really?



Coleman: I've had situations like that here on the campus where I had the respect of the students, where I can say, "Hey. Look. Let's stay within the law because we don't want anybody to get hurt." And so, that type of involvement, and when you get the respect of the students, that's something that you will always cherish.



Tanzman: Yes.



Coleman: Uh-huh. And a lot of lives were saved. I'll put it that way. Because it could have been real nasty.



Tanzman: Yeah, because they were some very dangerous times.



Coleman: Yeah. And then it goes back, like I said, to student involvement and campus government. But one thing about Tougaloo, it has always had shared governance.



Tanzman: With students?



Coleman: With students. With students. Always. Always. And I think that is why Tougaloo has been so successful in developing relationships with the students is because of shared governance. I mean, way before it became in vogue where you had to have student representation on all committees and search committees, and those kinds of things, Tougaloo was doing that.



Tanzman: How far back was that? Was that true in the sixties?

Coleman: Yeah. It was true in the sixties.



Tanzman: It was.



Coleman: Yeah. It was more with George Owens. Yeah. He made the difference.



Tanzman: Oh. OK. So sixty-four on, maybe.



Coleman: Sixty-four on was George Owens. Like I said, I made an earlier statement that he was a consensus-builder. He believed in connectedness. And he felt that you should be able to [have] open expression. I mean, I have seen situations down through the years, even in his administration where it was a toe-to-toe kind of thing. The only thing I ever saw that really perturbed him and really disturbed him was the fact that students were demonstrating and his wife and daughter were walking from the chapel to the president's home, and some of the students threw rocks at them.



Tanzman: Oh. When was this?



Coleman: That was in the sixties.



Tanzman: Really?



Coleman: Yeah. I never shall forget that. Now, that was when he crossed the line of being the president. He said, "I have to protect my family." And [he would not tolerate any physical harm to his family].



Tanzman: Was that over some of these demands about black studies.



Coleman: Not so much black studies. Maybe it was on some of the difficulties and decisions administration had made. They weren't popular decisions. Matter of fact I had two of my vehicles, during the course of my tenure here at Tougaloo in the early sixties, vandalized because of some decisions that I was on the disciplinary review board, and those decisions were made. I made them on the basis that the college was held accountable had something happened to students during that time. Some decisions were made by, were rendered by the disciplinary review committee, and I stuck with my decisions. I can remember we had two major riots on the campus.



Tanzman: Is this the late sixties?



Coleman: Late sixties. Yeah. Late sixties. Two major riots. One where they vandalized and tore up the student union. [Broke] all the glasses out of the building and when President Owens with his calm demeanor had the people out the next day to replace it, the glass, and all of those kinds of things. He rode with the tide, but it was during those periods, the beginning of his tenure as president that he believed in shared governance and being a part of decision-making. Students are apt more to respect decisions that are made [when] they were part of the decision-making process.



Tanzman: Yeah, they have the inclusiveness. That's important.



Coleman: The inclusiveness, and he did that. That was way before even Title IX. We had co-ed classes way before Title IX in the early seventies because it was based on economics. You know, we didn't have the faculty and all that, so we just lumped everybody all together.



Tanzman: You had to put them all together. (Laughter.)



Coleman: Yeah.



Tanzman: There was no choice.



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. So that's [what we had to do]. But we were able to weather the storm but I think through leadership--. You asked why is it that students were aggressive during that time. Because they saw beyond the traditional approach to higher education. They saw that they could have a part in the decision-making process, and they wanted to be heard. And they were. And then consequently they were heard. And so their voices didn't land on deaf ears.



Tanzman: Yeah. So they were actually respected--



Coleman: They were respected.



Tanzman: --as human beings--



Coleman: They were respected.



Tanzman: --before they were so-called grown.



Coleman: They was respected. And, you know, I can show you documentation just came out today, and every year the Institution Research Office under Dr. Bailey conduct yearly research on: how do you feel about Tougaloo? And at the top of the list: "I am respected as a person." Even with our nontraditional students, I can show you the results of that survey about three weeks ago.



Tanzman: They say, "I am respected."



Coleman: "I am respected as an adult. I am respected as a person, and I am treated with dignity as a person."



Tanzman: Well, that's something you carry with you the rest of your life.



Coleman: Yeah. And so, we have that. We have the research. The quantitative data to back up those statements. We just discussed today in the academic dean's council, and the question with the highest rating. That's the highest-rated question is that by the students.



Tanzman: "I am respected as a person."



Coleman: Yeah.



Tanzman: Wow. And on that tone, I'd like to thank--. This is a rare place in a rare history. Very rare. I think this isn't true in a lot of schools in the country, and hasn't been. And you can see why Tougaloo was such a key institution and is such a key institution for the students. And I think I'm going to have to go. I think you're going to have a class. (Laughter.)



Coleman: Yeah. After all, that's my primary responsibility, but I've enjoyed this, and then there's another chapter. You just call me, and we can talk through the seventies, and I can carry through the seventies where Tougaloo ventured off into an area in which we had very little expertise in dealing with nontraditional students in the early seventies, and how they came to Tougaloo, even the Choctaw Indians. We worked for ten years with the Choctaw Indians in Philadelphia.



Tanzman: You worked with them with the college level?



Coleman: Yeah. College level. Yes. Matter of fact, Tougaloo had the distinct honor of graduating in the midseventies more Choctaw students in one graduating class in college in the history of the Choctaw Nation.



Tanzman: More than any?



Coleman: We had seven.



Tanzman: Seven students?



Coleman: Seven students graduated from Tougaloo with a B.S. degree in early childhood education.



Tanzman: That's a real first.



Coleman: That's a real first, and I started working with [Chief] Phillip Martin [in Tougaloo's involvement in offering higher education to the Choctaw Nation in 1971 through 1980]. I directed the program. And I started working with Chief Phillip Martin in 1971.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. You brought the students here?



Coleman: Yeah. We brought them here, and we took the college there.



Tanzman: Oh. You took the college to Philadelphia?



Coleman: Yeah.



Tanzman: In the seventies?



Coleman: To Pearl River [Community in Philadelphia]. Yes. Matter of fact, we also had two [nontraditional] programs on the Gulf Coast, [in] Harrison and Jackson County where we had 150 students all together, and we had another [seventy-five students in Philadelphia (Choctaws)].



Tanzman: They were all from the Coast?



Coleman: They were from the Coast and Philadelphia [(Choctaws)].



Tanzman: So, you did extension? Kind of an extension education?



Coleman: We did extension. Yeah. Yeah. Off-campus courses. Yes. And then we would bring them to the campus.



Tanzman: Oh. They also came here for classes?



Coleman: Yeah. We also brought them to the campus. [In 1979, Tougaloo produced the largest number of graduates at one time in the Choctaw Nation's history: seven with Bachelor's degrees in early childhood education.]



Tanzman: That's terrific.



Coleman: One of our graduates is on the tribal council.



Tanzman: In Philadelphia?



Coleman: In Philadelphia. William Lewis.[?] He and his wife both graduated at the same time.



Tanzman: Now, that would be a fascinating history to do with them.



Coleman: Yeah. We have very interesting experiences down through the years with Phillip Martin and the people at Pearl River. Yeah. We had a representative from all seven communities. We would have seven communities.



Tanzman: Within the Choctaw people.



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. Standing Pine, (inaudible), Bogue Chitta, Pearl River, (inaudible). They have seven communities, and we had representatives from all seven communities to attend.



Tanzman: Came to this.



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. (Inaudible.) Matter of fact, one year I was fortunate to recruit a baseball player from--. He played baseball here at Tougaloo from the Choctaw reservation.



Tanzman: From the Choctaw?



Coleman: Yeah.



Tanzman: Wow. That's terrific.



Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. So, that's another story for another time.



Tanzman: It is, indeed. (Laughter.) I want to thank you very much.



Coleman: My pleasure.



Tanzman: Very much, Dean Coleman, thank you. I enjoyed it.



(End of the interview.)



 
 

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