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JAMES D. COLEMAN


Rev. James Dunlap Coleman, minister and educator of Bluefield, W. Va., is a native of the Old Dominion. He was born in Halifax County, Va., on April 24, 1863, right in the midst of the titantic struggle, which, with the surrender of Gen. Lee two years later, brought to the boy and his race freedom from slavery and a measure of opportunity. The life of a man like Mr. Coleman who was born during the war is of unusual interest to the student of history, as it shows more clearly than any theories can do just what one generation of freedom has meant to the individual, who has used it intelligently. The father of our subject, Wilson Coleman, still survives, (1922). The name of his wife was Parthenia Coleman. Prof. Coleman's ancestry had been held in the Coleman family for a hundred years prior to Emancipation. The more remote African ancestors are traceable to Madagascar. Growing up on the Virginia farm, young Coleman had but meager opportunities for an education. In fact, he had attended school only ten months when he reached his majority. There had grown up in the mind of the youth, however, a desire for something better for himself than a life of drudgery, and a desire to be of service to his people. This called for preparation. Accordingly he hired himself out for $10.00 per month and with the money thus earned went to Wayland Seminary at Washington and was identified with that institution as student and teacher for fifteen years. He entered Wayland in 1885 and pursued the normal and theological academic courses. His early vacations were spent in the brick yard. This gives some measure of his desire for an education. After he reached the point where he could teach, the way was easier, at least the work was more congenial. When Wayland was made a college, he took logic and French and German languages. He remained with Wayland till it was merged with Richmond Institute to make Virginia Union University, with which he remained for two years, teacher of French and History.

Mr. Coleman was converted when a boy of fourteen on the farm and joined the Piney Grove Baptist Church. While in school at Wayland he felt called to preach, and was licensed and ordained to the full work of the ministry in 1903. His first pastorate was the First Baptist Church of Huntington, which he served for two years. He resigned that and took up the work of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in the same city and erected the house of worship. Here as elsewhere his work was that constructive sort which appeals to the best element of both races.

In 1906, he was called to the Bluefield Colored Institute and with the exception of a two years leave of absence, 1917-19, when he was at Glen White as pastor and social worker has been identified with the institution since that time. His special chair is that of history, but he has done much other work at the Institute besides and has been an important factor in making the school what it is today.

His work both as a preacher and as an educator shows him a man of intellectual grasp, with a love of thoroughness, a man of poise and withal a man of clear cut ideals for himself and for those whom he is called to lead.

In June, 1893, Prof. Coleman was married to Miss Amanda Miller. She was educated at Hartshorn Memorial College, Richmond, and was before her marriage a teacher. She passed away in 1906. On June 10, 1908, Prof. Coleman marriedMiss Leveria Holley of Martinsburg, W. Va. There are two children of this union, Charles Lewis & James Dunlap Coleman, Jr. In politics he is a Republican and among the secret orders is a Prince Hall Mason.

All his life he has been an intelligent observer of conditions and for more than a quarter of a century has sought to lead his people in the paths of right thinking and living. He comes to the present with no bitterness or resentment, and for the future, only asks that he and his people be permitted to live and move and work in an atmosphere that is Christian.


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