Friday, January 28, 2011

Opening of the J.P. Coleman Papers

From H-Law, we have the following announcement:
The Archives & Special Collections at the University of Mississippi is pleased to announce the opening of Fifth Circuit papers of Judge J.P. Coleman. To commemorate the occasion, the archive is hosting a program in the J.D. Williams Library on Tuesday, March 8th at 5:30 p.m. Judge Leslie Southwick of the Fifth Circuit will discuss the nomination and confirmation of Coleman, John B. Clark (senior partner of Daniel, Coker, Horton, and Bell in Jackson, MS) will recall his service as the judge’s law clerk, and Dr. John Winkle of the UM Political Science Department will address the realignment of the Fifth Circuit Court with particular attention to Coleman’s role in the process. The event is open to the public and also approved for one hour of Mississippi CLE and judicial education credit.

Born in 1914, J.P. Coleman had an active career in state politics: district attorney for the Fifth Circuit of Mississippi, state circuit judge, Mississippi Supreme Court justice, state attorney general, Mississippi governor, and Mississippi legislator. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Coleman to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Although opposed by civil rights groups, the Senate confirmed the appointment.

Coleman served on the Fifth Circuit bench for nineteen years. During that period, he ascribed to color-blind, narrow constitutionalist interpretations that favored law enforcement against direct-action protest, supported local control of school operations, and restricted claims based upon employment discrimination and voting rights. In Connor v. Johnson, Coleman was part of a District Court panel that rejected a Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenge to the legislature’s 1966 reapportionment plan eliminating all majority black districts within the state.

Coleman became Chief Judge in 1979 and the following year relented to proposals for realignment that placed Mississippi in a western division retaining the designation “Fifth Circuit” while the eastern division transformed into the “Eleventh Circuit.” Congressional legislation authorizing the reorganization passed on October 1, 1981. Coleman assumed senior status in 1981 and retired from the bench in 1984. He died on September 28, 1991 and his body lay in state in the Old Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi prior to burial.

The J.P. Coleman Collection finding aid is available online here. Please direct any questions about the program or the collection to Leigh McWhite at 662-915-1850 or

Leigh McWhite, Ph.D.
Political Papers Archivist & Assistant Professor
University of Mississippi
(662) 915-1850
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