(1920 -) William T. Coleman Jr. was the first African American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court clerk, and he later became the fourth U.S. Secretary of Transportation. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Coleman spent a year at Harvard Law School before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Coleman completed his law degree in 1946. Due to discrimination, large law firms did not hire him, so he began working as a law clerk for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1948, Coleman clerked for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Coleman served as president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and coauthored the NAACP's brief for Brown v. Board of Education. Coleman argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court in McLaughlin v. Florida, a decision that overturned interracial cohabitation, and Bob Jones University v. United States, which gave the IRS authority to revoke the tax-exempt status of an overtly discriminatory university. Coleman went on to serve as a presidential adviser to President Dwight Eisenhower, and became a U.S. delegate to the United Nations. In 1995, he was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifelong work in law and the government.
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