J.P. Coleman; Ex-Mississippi Governor
J.P. Coleman, Mississippi’s governor during the infancy of the civil rights movement and later chief judge of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, died Saturday of the complications of a stroke.
Coleman, 77, was governor from 1956 to 1960. It was during his Administration that the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission was created as a propaganda machine to counter attacks on racism in the Deep South.
The commission’s work branched out under Coleman’s successor, Ross Barnett, who focused its work as a segregation watchdog agency on spying on civil rights workers and trying to undermine integration in Mississippi. The agency was disbanded in 1973.
In 1965, then U.S. Sen. James Eastland, powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pressured President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint Coleman to the federal appeals court in New Orleans. He served as chief judge from 1979 to 1981.
In an unsuccessful campaign for a second term as governor in 1963, Coleman tried to run as a moderate on the issue of race.
Born on a farm near Ackerman, James Plemon Coleman began his public career when he was elected circuit judge in 1946. He was appointed to the newly created post of commissioner on the state Supreme Court in 1950, but resigned that year to become state attorney general.