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Interview with Tommy Coleman, December 13, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:27 - Growing Up in Albany

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Partial Transcript: Uh, that being out of the way...

Segment Synopsis: Tommy Coleman was born in Albany, GA to Franklin and Freddie Coleman. He discusses his family history and origins across the state of Georgia. In his experience as a white child, Albany was a good place to grow up, albeit completely segregated. He recalls being in the first integrated high school class his sophomore year.

Keywords: Albany High School; Albany Movement; Atlantic Coast Line Railroad; Coleman Opticians; Edison, GA; Fort Gaines, Ga; Freedom of Choice Plan; Hamilton Jordan; Mercer University; Monroe, GA; Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital; Poulan, GA; integration; segregation

00:06:17 - Desegregation of Albany

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Partial Transcript: It may be a little too young for you to remember...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman explains how Albany exhibited extreme resistance to the Brown v. Board decision and desegregation. He shares his relations with a few Civil Rights Activists such as McCree Harris, Rutha Harris, and Goldie Jackson. He recalls some of the features of segregation in downtown Albany and the progression of his parents' expression of their views.

Keywords: A Boy from Georgia: Coming of Age in the Segregated South; Albany Movement; Brown v. Board of Education; Civil Rights Movement; Dougherty County School System; Dougherty County, GA; Hamilton Jordan; Integration; Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK); The Freedom Singers

00:12:18 - College Experiences

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Partial Transcript: When you, uh, when it was- when it came down...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman relays his attitude upon learning that his class was the first to be integrated in Albany. He discusses his time at Darton State College, as well as travelling and working for Bill Stuckey the summer before. He later transferred to the University of Georgia where he continued to work with Stuckey.

Keywords: Albany High School; Albany, GA; Carlyle Ramsey; Darton State College (Albany State University West Campus); John Herschel Glenn Jr.; UGA; Williamson Sylvester Stuckey Jr.; integration

00:19:56 - Albany Politics

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Partial Transcript: So, at what point did you decide...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman explains that he initially went to Journalism school with the intention of being a press secretary. He returned to Albany to work and ran for city commissioner. He shares his opinion and relationship with C.B. King, discussing his campaign for governor. He recalls several people who helped to support the Albany Movement.

Keywords: 1972 Albany Workers' Strike; Albany, GA; Bo Jackson; Chevene Bowers "C. B." King; Goldie Jackson; Johnson v. City of Albany, Ga.; Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK); McCree Harris; Motie Wiggins; Rev. E. James Grant; Reverend H.C. Boyd

00:27:26 - African Americans in Albany Politics

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Partial Transcript: In the seventies, as I understand it...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman explains the discriminatory aspects of the district system of Albany and the effects of redrawing district lines during the mayoral election. His discusses being on the first city council in Albany with African American councilmen.

Keywords: Albany, GA; Herbert E. Phipps; James Harrison Gray, Sr.; Mary Moss Young-Cummings; Robert Montgomery; Wilbur Dawson Owens Jr.

00:36:16 - James Harrison Gray, Sr.

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Partial Transcript: I was wondering if you could talk more...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman discusses the role of James Gray in Albany politics, such as how he became mayor after the death of Motie Wiggins. He mentions Gray's chance to be governor of Georgia, losing to Jimmy Carter. Coleman also explains the prevalence of the Republican and Democratic parties in Albany.

Keywords: Albany, GA; Dougherty County, Ga; Ellis Gibbs Arnall; James Earl Carter Jr.; Lester Garfield Maddox Sr.; Morton McLaughlin “Motie” Wiggins

00:43:00 - Work in Politics

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Partial Transcript: I see. So, in the seventies you...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman discusses serving as city commissioner and mayor pro tempore, as well as being removed by James Gray. He mentions his time having worked for a few politicians and passing the opportunity to work with Jimmy Carter.

Keywords: Southern Politics in State and Nation ; Albany, GA; Bill Miller; Carl Edward Sanders Sr.; George Dekle Busbee Sr.; James Earl Carter Jr; James Harrison Gray, Sr.; Valdimer Orlando Key Jr. (V. O. Key); Williamson Sylvester "Bill" Stuckey Jr.

00:50:29 - Continuing politics and Practicing Law

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Partial Transcript: When the Reagan revolution came...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman shares that he gave politics outside of Albany a thought but never acted on it. He feels that his current career fits him and he would not be able to run another political campaign. He discusses the adjustment period after being mayor for ten years to being a lawyer representing the city.

Keywords: 1964 United States presidential election; 1980 United States presidential election; Albany, Ga; Barry Morris Goldwater; Reagan Era (Age of Reagan)

00:56:23 - Lee County School Board

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Partial Transcript: Uh, when did you first become mayor?

Segment Synopsis: Coleman provides a timeline of his switching between mayor and lawyer. He discusses his work to lift the active school board order and what he believes to be the purpose of Deerfield private school. Coleman mentions his observations of the decrease of the white population in Lee County as citizens segregate themselves.

Keywords: Albany High School; Albany, GA; C. W. Grant; Deerfield-Windsor Lower School; Flint River flood; Johnnie Johnson Jr.; Johnson v. City of Albany, Ga; Lee County, GA; Paul Keenan; Wilbur Dawson Owens Jr.; desegregation

01:03:15 - Flint River Rumors/ Race and Politics

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Partial Transcript: So, the flood, um...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman feels that the Flint River flood played a large role in the city's decrease in the white population. He explains the start of rumors that the flood water had been diverted and Mary Young-Cummings' role in it. Coleman discusses the different expectations of black and white city officials and the split within the black community.

Keywords: Albany Movement; Albany, GA; Janice Allen Jackson; John White; Mary Moss Young-Cummings; Paul Keenan

01:09:18 - Getting Out of Politics

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Partial Transcript: So, when you- why did you decide...

Segment Synopsis: Coleman explains that he is still involved in politics in a different manner, doing work for cities in south Georgia after choosing to not be directly involved.

Keywords: Ashburn, GA; Camilla, GA; Jimmy Skipper; Mary Michelle Nunn; Samuel Augustus Nunn Jr.; Sylvester, GA