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Dr. John W. Coleman, Sr.

Dr. John William Coleman was born on December 18, 1920, in Glendale, South Carolina. Coleman was the oldest boy of four children born to Birdie O'Neal and John Henry Coleman. Coleman always wanted to be a doctor and grew up to become a radiologist who helped change Chicago's hospitals.

Cummings Street High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which Coleman attended, was located behind an incinerator. In spite of the unpleasant environment, Coleman excelled and graduated second in his class in 1937. He was awarded a scholarship to Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and earned a bachelor's degree at the age of twenty. Having learned the plastering trade from his father, Coleman decided to work as a plasterer for a year in order to save money for medical school. He was accepted to Meharry Medical School, but on December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II. Coleman received notification that he would be drafted. However, the local draft board president was a physician, and when Coleman showed him his acceptance letter, the physician tore up the induction notice and told him to go to school.

Coleman enrolled in Meharry, but in 1943, he and his classmates were inducted into the U.S. Army. Declared part of the Army Specialized Training Program, Coleman and his classmates were sent back to school. By the time Coleman graduated, the war had ended. Coleman was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve - a commission he resigned at the request of the military. Coleman moved to Chicago, Illinois, and interned at Provident Hospital. The next year, he became a resident in radiology and was certified in both diagnostic and therapeutic radiology and served as an attending physician part time at Provident while beginning a private practice. Then, in 1952, Coleman was called to take part in the Korean War. Reenlisting and serving as an Air Force captain, Coleman worked in an Air Force hospital in upstate New York for two years.

In 1955, Coleman moved back to Chicago and opened a practice on the city's South Side. In 1958, he began working part time at the West Side Veteran's Administration Hospital. Coleman was instrumental in a 1961 lawsuit resulting in integrated hospitals in Chicago. He continued to work with veterans until his 1988 retirement.

Coleman passed away on December 31, 2004 at age 84.

Accession Number

A2002.099

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/6/2002

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Middle Name

William

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Glendale

HM ID

COL03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Gee Whiz.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/18/1920

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pork Chops

Death Date

12/31/2004

Short Description

Radiologist Dr. John W. Coleman, Sr. (1920 - 2004 ) was a certified radiology specialist and was instrumental in a 1961 lawsuit resulting in integrated hospitals in Chicago.

Employment

Provident Hospital

United States Air Force

United States Veterans Administration

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Coleman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Coleman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Coleman describes his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Coleman describes the sights, smells, and sounds of growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Coleman talks about his family's experience during the Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Coleman talks about his neighborhood growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Coleman describes the tension between blacks and whites growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Coleman talks about the segregated school system in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Coleman describes his teachers at Dean Street Grammar School in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Coleman talks about his aspirations to become a doctor in his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - John Coleman talks about attending Cumming Street High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina from 1933 to 1937

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Coleman talks about attending Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1937

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Coleman describes his activities as a student at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Coleman talks about graduating from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1941 and then attending medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Coleman describes Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Coleman describes being inducted into the U.S. Army Specialized Training Program during World War II while he was enrolled at Meharry Medical College

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Coleman talks about becoming a radiology resident at Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois in 1943

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John Coleman talks about his residency at Provident Hospital and Michael Reese Hospital, in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Coleman talks about working as a radiologist at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, before starting his private practice in 1950

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Coleman talks about serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict from 1953 to 1955

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Coleman describes his radiology practice on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Coleman describes the segregated hospitals in Chicago, Illinois in the 1950s that led to his filing a lawsuit in 1961

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Coleman talks about the lawsuit to integrate Chicago Hospitals in 1961

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Coleman describes how the 1961 lawsuit to integrate hospitals affected Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Coleman talks about the demise of Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Coleman talks about Provident Hospital's role in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Coleman describes some of the medical organizations he is a part of

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Coleman talks about educating black patients

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Coleman talks about improving the health care of African Americans

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Coleman talks about how health care for the black community has changed over his career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John Coleman talks about his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - John Coleman describes what he hopes for the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - John Coleman talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - John Coleman talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Coleman describes how managed care has changed the health care industry during his career

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Coleman narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$1

DAStory

5$10

DATitle
John Coleman talks about the lawsuit to integrate Chicago Hospitals in 1961
John Coleman talks about his aspirations to become a doctor in his youth
Transcript
So you sued the Doctor's Hospital or?$$All the hospitals. We sued every one of the hospitals. We sued every, every, every predominantly white hospital in the city of Chicago [Illinois]. We named them all. It was fifty-eight of 'em I think. All of 'em, we sued every one of 'em except the, except the County [Cook County Hospital] and, and the Veteran's [West Side Veteran's Hospital], named them, you know, named all of 'em 'cause they all was--all of 'em was, all was the same. They all, all did the same thing. And we sued--we did this, put the suit in, in 19--I don't whether it was 1960 or '59' [1959], something like that [1961]. We put the suit in in federal, federal district court, Northern District of Illinois, and went under, under Judge Hubert Will. And as we started gathering information and putting that stuff in, the lawyer--they started laying that stuff on the line so much, Judge Will told 'em, said "you all better--you all, you all know what you doing?" Told the lawyer, you all, you all, you all better, you all better straighten up and fly right. You all better--they're not asking for much. They're just asking you all to, to integrate the--integrate and let some black doctors on the staff. He said that's not asking much. He said you all gonna lose your tail if you don't let 'em in. They didn't wanna. They, they paid for every--they really, they really didn't wanna let us in. But they finally got around and somebody told 'em if they--they gon'--they'll win this suit, and if they ask for money, you're gon' be, you gon' be up the creek, said they haven't said nothing yet about money. So, we won the suit. We didn't' ask for money. They, they came around. And all we wanted to do is let the patients in the hospital without, without any discrimination whatsoever. You come there, you just a patient. You don't see it. You just a patient to--and the black doctor, he, he gets into the--he gets in on the staff if he's qualified--that's all--if he wants to be. So that's the way things left. And then they were gonna hold the suit open for ten years, and that's the way we did it. We--end of 1961--we kept it open for ten years, and we didn't see or hear anything. So, things went along well, and that's how we integrated all the hospitals around here.$$Who was the lead lawyer on--who was the leader for you?$$John Morris was, was our lead lawyer, along with Judge Layton--George Layton, and a fellow named Rippey (ph.), and Smith; I think it's a brother named Smith. It was four of 'em.$$Okay, now who was the first, the first one, Mar or some-$$Morris, John-$$Mar-$$John Morris. John Morris was the lawyer and my, and my partner, his brother, was, was a doctor, radiologist, Bob Morris. They're both dead now. I'm, I'm the only living doc--well, Charlie Williams may be still living. He was one of the named--ten of us doctors signed in on the suit. So all of them are dead. Charlie is still living, and I'm the only other one that's still living. All, all the rest of 'em are dead now. But we, we signed in on it, the suit, so that we could get all the doctors in these hospitals. And that's why they opened up Michael Reese [Hospital, Illinois] and, and Lying-In [University of Chicago Hospital] and Mercy [Hospital, Illinois]. It's, it's, you know, around, which is good, you know, which is as it should be (laughter).$Okay, did--when you were in school, did you have any idea what you wanted to do when you grew up?$$Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, I always wanted to be a doctor, knew that from, I guess from--I had older--my, my, my, my mother had her cousin, lady that lived diagonally across the street from us is her first cousin. And she used to take us to the, we would go to the show, picture up there at the theater. I guess I must have been maybe--I, I don't know how old I was, but I saw a picture of a doctor, you know (unclear)--just a, just a kid. And from that movie I wanted to be a doctor, you know. And then just growing up, her mother and this lady took me to the show. Her mother was sick. She had a doctor come and see her, and I'd see him. This doctor come and see her, and I, I like--I kind of liked that--I'll be like, be like that doctor, make house calls to people. So, so yeah, I kind of knew all along that's what I, I wanted to be a doctor. So it was never any doubt that I was--how I was gon' get there, I don't know, you know, no money, no nothing, you know, but that's what I wanted to be.$$Now, what was it about the profession of being a doctor that interested you?$$Well, you know, I, I don't know whether it was something that--or whether or not it was this doctor in this movie, which--that helped this kid--I don't know whether he broke his leg or something. Some way he helped this, helped this kid, some kind of way this doctor did something to help that kid. I think it--that's what I wanted to do, you know. But just, just something about that, all along, every, every chance I'd see somewhere where the doctor--what was the doctor doing, watching what he did on every hand just to see if that's what I--if that's what I wanna do, let me see if that's what I want--it still, you know, do I still wanna be a doctor, you know, and then try to read and find out what does it take to be a doctor, you know. And then when I found out what it took to be a doctor, then maybe I don't wanna be a doctor (laughter). Maybe I wanna be something else, you know. But basically, I, I wanna say I wanna be a chemist, but basically in the back of my mind I wanted to be a doctor.$$Were there any other black doctors in--were, were there any black doctors in Spartanburg [South Carolina]?$$Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, there were, there were three or four black doctors there, yeah.$$And how were they treated by, by people? I mean did people look up to them or?$$Oh yeah, yeah they were--yeah, looked up to 'em and they, they looked like they commanded the respect of the community. As I said, this one doctor that went to visit my aunt, he was a nice fellow, you know, nice, nice enough little fellow. He was an older man at that time.