Coleman receives Gerald Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service


William T. Coleman, Jr. has been selected as the recipient of the 2011 Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service. The medal was presented on May 3 in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol by the Gerald R. Ford President Foundation at an evening celebration of the U.S. Capitol Statue of President  Ford “This is the fifth year that the medal will be presented in memory, as well as recognition, of the leadership attributes of Dad. It is fitting that the medal should be awarded to William Coleman, an extraordinary individual whose long career in public service has placed patriotism before partisanship and who has demonstrated so many of the ideals championed by Dad,” said Steve Ford, Chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. “Our nation has benefited from Bill’s decades of distinguished public service and unwavering commitment to the highest ideals of integrity,” continued Ford.

The medal is given annually to an individual who has served the public good  in the private or public sector. The award was established by the Board of Trustees of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation in 2003. Previous recipients have been Alan Greenspan, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Betty Ford, the Men and Women of the United States Armed Forces, Lee Hamilton, James Baker, Carla A. Hills, Henry Kissinger, and John Paul Stevens.

Foundation Board Chairman Emeritus, Martin J. Allen, Jr., noted that, “The criteria for the recipients are based on  characteristics that President Ford demonstrated in his public service. They include courage, strength of character, integrity, diligence and determination in the face of adversity, all of  which have been characteristic of Bill Coleman's remarkable public service.”

William T. Coleman, Jr.’s career of distinguished public service spans sixty years. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and attended Harvard Law School, where he was the first African-American  to serve on the Harvard Law Review’s board of editors. He interrupted his law studies during World War II to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Returning to Harvard, he graduated magna cum laude in 1946. Coleman clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. He then entered private law practice, but remained very active in public service and pro bono activities.

His years of work with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund became a cornerstone of the civil rights movement and led directly to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

In 1975, he was appointed as President Ford’s Secretary of Transportation and served with distinction in that post for the remainder of Ford’s presidency.

Coleman has served several other presidents in a number of important assignments, including the Presidential Commission on Airline and Airport Security and the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review in 2004. In 1995, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation fosters increased awareness of th life, career, values and legacy of the U.S.A.’s 38th President.