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The Honorable Garnet Coleman

State representative Garnet Coleman was born on September 8, 1961 in Washington, D.C. to Gloria Jones Coleman and Dr. John B. Coleman. Coleman was raised in Houston, Texas, where his father worked as the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Houston’s Riverside General Hospital. He also served as the first African American appointee to the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 1977. Coleman graduated from Jack Yates Senior High School in 1979, and entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. but returned to Houston, where he earned his B.A. degree in political science from the University of Saint Thomas in 1990. Coleman later completed Harvard University’s Senior Executive Program for State and Local Government.

Coleman began his political career in 1988 as a delegate to the Texas State Democratic Convention. In 1990, he served as precinct chair of his local Democratic Precinct Convention, and was elected to serve as a Texas state representative in 1991. Coleman defeated longtime civic leader Reverend Jew Don Boney, Jr. in a runoff election for the seat left vacant by the passing of Larry Q. Evans. In 1991, Coleman also founded S.M.A.R.T. Kids, a youth development and tutoring program. In 1992, Coleman served as the Harris County field director for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, and as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In addition to his service as a state representative, Coleman was elected chair of the Legislative Study Group in 2003. As chairman, Coleman advocated to preserve Texas’ top ten percent rule, which assisted historically underrepresented students by automatically admitting the Texas’ top performing high school students to Texas state universities. During President Barack Obama’s administration, Coleman served as a member of the president’s State Legislators for Health Reform. Coleman also served as CEO of Apartments for America, Inc., a non-profit affordable housing corporation.

Coleman served on the House Select Committee for Mental Health and the Public Health Committee as a senior ranking member, in addition to chairing the County Affairs Committee. He also served on the board of numerous charitable organizations including the South Central Young Mens’ Christian Association, the Ensemble Theater, the Third Ward Redevelopment Council, and the Houston Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council.
Coleman was honored with the 2005 Reintegration Award from Eli Lilly and Company for his support of public health programs.

Garnet Coleman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 2, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.139

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/2/2016

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

St. Stephen's Episcopal School

University of St. Thomas

River Oaks Elementary School

St. Anne Catholic School

Bellaire High School

Strake Jesuit College Preparatory

Howard University School of Business

Texas A&M University

Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University

Howard University

First Name

Garnet

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

COL26

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York City

Favorite Quote

Thinking Is Underrated.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

9/8/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Milkshake

Short Description

State representative Garnet Coleman (1961 - ) was elected to serve Houston’s historic Third Ward in the Texas House of Representatives in 1991. He went on to serve as chair of the Legislative Study Group and County Affairs Committee, and on the Public Health Committee as well as the House Select Committee for Mental Health.

Employment

The State of Texas

Clinton-Gore Presidential Campaign

J.B.'s Entertainment Center

Frederick's Riverside Wine Bar

U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland

Small and Minority Business Resources Department

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Garnet Coleman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his relation to Sally Hemings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his maternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about the origin of his name

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his maternal grandparents' careers

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable talks about the historically black neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his father's medical training

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his father's education advocacy

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his father's political activism

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his parents' early relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about the Third Ward of Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his elementary school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about the history curriculum in Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes the activism of the National Medical Association

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about the history of African Americans in Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his early childhood influences

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers the onset of his bipolar disorder

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about the treatment of mental illness in the black community

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers his early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his early aspirations

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his courses at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his mentor at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers his godfather, Herbert O. Reid, Sr.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman describes his social activities at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers his decision to leave Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers entering the restaurant industry

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman recalls working for Congressman Mickey Leland

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers Frederick's Riverside Wine Bar in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers his airport concession business

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about his early political activities

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman recalls the death of Larry Evans

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers his first campaign for the Texas House of Representatives

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$3

DAStory

12$5

DATitle
The Honorable Garnet Coleman remembers his first campaign for the Texas House of Representatives
The Honorable Garnet Coleman talks about the history of African Americans in Texas
Transcript
So Larry Evans dies all of a sudden, and he leaves this void [in the Texas House of Representatives], you know.$$(Nods head).$$So, now how did you get involved and run for the seat?$$Well, my cousin, Terry Whitfield [ph.], was working in the AG's [attorney general] office in Austin [Texas], a good friend of mine was doing work at Huston-Tillotson [Huston-Tillotson College; Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, Texas], and I had moved up to Austin and I was just joking around a little bit. I'd gone to dinner, my other cousin, Annette Bracey, came up, and we were all having dinner and I was talking about politics and they say, "Well, shoot, you ought to run." And I was like, hm? "Yeah, yeah, you like this stuff, you ought to run." So my cousin Terry, my good friend, Anthony Haley [ph.], we all sat down at the table and went through stuff and I decided to run from Austin, I was living in Austin. And, so I called my father [John B. Coleman], I called everybody else first, then I called my father because I was expecting him to say, "No, you shouldn't," and he didn't but, again, you know, that wasn't the first person I was going to call. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it. It didn't matter whether people were involved or not.$$But your dad had been a delegate of the Democratic Party, right, in '88 [1988] and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, he was--well, he was a--no, my father was a giver of money. He was never a delegate.$$Okay. So were you a delegate in '88 [1988]?$$I was a delegate.$$All right, so, all right. 'Cause I've got--this--my outline's confusing me a little bit.$$Okay, I--$$But you were a delegate in '88 [1988], all right. I thought they were talking about your--$$I went to the convention in '88 [1988 Democratic National Convention, Atlanta, Georgia]--$$Okay.$$--as a guest of the--$$Right.$$--Democratic Party chair here in Texas.$$Okay. And that's the convention where they nominated Michael Dukakis right?$$That's correct.$$And Lloyd Bentsen as vice president from Texas.$$That's right.$$Yeah.$$That's right.$$Okay, all right.$$And, so in '92 [1992]--I've been to every convention since '92 [1992 Democratic National Convention, New York, New York]--$$Okay.$$--as a delegate, not--I'm actually a member of the DNC [Democratic National Committee].$$Okay. But you were there in '88 [1988] as just an observer?$$Observer.$$Okay.$$And I used to go to the state conventions, if they were in Houston [Texas], as an observer so--$$Okay.$$Just go, I mean, you know, but it's because you like it. You don't go to stuff you don't like.$$But you had to run--this is 1991 when you run for the vacated seat. You run aga- you have to run against Reverend Jew Don Boney [J. Don Boney, Jr.].$$Yeah, Jew Don Boney.$$And (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) John Chase's [HistoryMaker John S. Chase] daughter, Saundria Chase [Saundria Chase Gray]. There were eleven people in the, in the race--$$Okay.$$--but the advantage of it is, it couldn't, couldn't go past sixty days. So thirty days to the special election and then thirty days to the runoff.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$$All right (laughter).$$So it was, it was interesting. It was actually--I tell people all the time, there are two parts of being an elected official. One part, everybody has to do and that's run for office but that journey in itself is very valuable, win or lose, 'cause you actually get to know yourself better. I learned more about my grand- my daddy's daddy [William Coleman, Sr.] running for office, knocking on doors in Third Ward [Houston, Texas] than I ever knew. This one guy said, "Oh, oh, you Mr. Coleman's son--grandson." He said, "Yeah, I knew your grandmamma [Clara Hubbard Coleman] and I knew your granddaddy and your daddy," and he said, "Yeah, your grandfather looked like a white man" (laughter), and I just thought, well I didn't know that, maybe look like--you know, so it was just interesting to hear about my, particularly my grandparents from the people who lived in Third Ward at the same time they did.$The kind of history you were taught in school was probably, I'm guessing, was the Alamo and things like that? Like--$$Yeah, there was a lot of that.$$--like the John Wayne, Fess Parker type of history where there--$$A lot of, a lot of what we would call stereotypical Texas that identifies Texas and a lot of it was Central Texas that be--which, whichever people, you know, people, the lore is around Central Texas, not around the cane fields [sugarcane] and Brazoria County [Texas] or Brazos County [Texas], not around the cotton--cotton was talked about a lot but not who was picking it.$$Right.$$So, that's why, you know, we look at populations of black people, they're all along whatever that agricultural base was. That's why a bunch of black people in north Texas and Lubbock [Texas] and, you know, in the plains, well, how did they get up there? Well, they were picking the cotton (laughter), you know, so the same is cutting the cane and they still cut cane in, you know, and it's--it was very much that, if you think about it, that commodity, those commodities that slaves picked.$$Did you have a balance of that kind of discussion when you were growing up around--$$Yes. I caught myself, you know, I'm the same age as Barack Obama [HistoryMaker President Barack Obama], you know, which is a big deal to me. The idea of understanding what it was like by story to be in segregation. My father-in-law used to always talk about when he would drive, we as a family, we would drive back to Houston [Texas] and he said he had to get to a black city with a black hotel 'cause you couldn't stay in a white hotel. And, so I, you know, these are stories that I grew up with and that basically it was about change. There was a fear in not, in driving at night and also not being in a town where you could get a hotel and that fear continues with a lot of people to today but, so that told me there was something different, I mean, you know, I--and that kind of--those stories stayed with me, you know, stay with me now because, you know, you grow up knowing to make sure that you don't, you have either your hands on the wheel or don't go for your glove compartment, you know, we hear this all the time but it's true. And, you know, even though I lived in a black world, for the most part, except for some of my schools, I thought that that was kind of, you know, it wasn't different but we had our own intact community that was a good, good community, although it was--came from segregation, just like the NMA, the National Medical Association instead of the American Medical Association. There was some, I saw all this as, you know, with the split was in the country, and it was a split by race.