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James P. Coleman: Wikis

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James Plemon Coleman

In office
January 17, 1956 – January 19, 1960
Lieutenant Carroll Gartin
Preceded by Hugh L. White
Succeeded by Ross R. Barnett

Born January 9, 1914(1914-01-09)
Ackerman, Mississippi
Died September 28, 1991 (aged 77)
Ackerman, Mississippi
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Margaret Janet Dennis
Profession Lawyer
Religion Baptist

James Plemon "J.P." Coleman (January 9, 1914 – September 28, 1991) was a politician from the state of Mississippi.

Coleman was born in Ackerman, Mississippi. He obtained a law degree from The George Washington University Law School in 1939. As a young man, he served upon the staff of Mississippi Congressman A. L. Ford. In Washington, D.C., he made a name for himself by challenging and defeating another young southern congressional staffer and future president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, for Speaker of the Little Congress, a body that Johnson had dominated before Coleman's challenge. Coleman and Johnson became lifelong friends.

Returning to Mississippi, Coleman was elected District Attorney in 1940, and served until 1946, when he became judge on the state circuit court. After a stint as a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Coleman was the Mississippi Attorney General from 1950 to 1956. Coleman became the Governor of Mississippi in 1956 as a moderate candidate in a campaign where, to appease the emotions of the day, he promised to uphold segregation. As governor, he befriended Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but set up the State Sovereignty Commission. After his term ended in 1960, he won a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives and served until 1964. He thus became the only Mississippi politician in history to serve in an elected capacity in all three branches of Mississippi government.

His subsequent campaign for Governor in 1963 was unsuccessful as he lost to Paul B. Johnson, Jr. The segregation candidate Johnson ran against Coleman, painting Coleman as a racial moderate and friend of the Kennedy administration. Paul Johnson's campaign staff charged, fictitiously, that during the 1960 presidential campaign Coleman had allowed candidate JFK to sleep in the Governor's Mansion in the bed of white supremacist Theodore Bilbo.

President Kennedy offered Coleman various posts, including Secretary of the Army and ambassador to Australia, but Coleman declined. After President Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Coleman to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where he served from 1965 to 1981. He finished his career in Ackerman, Mississippi, where he practiced law and farmed until he suffered a severe stroke in the Fall of 1991.

J. P. Coleman State Park, a state park in Mississippi, is named after him.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Hugh L. White
Governor of Mississippi
1956-1960
Succeeded by
Ross R. Barnett
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