Roland Coleman Jr., former L.A. County Bar Assn. president, dies at 74


Lawyer Roland Lee Coleman Jr., the second Black individual to steer the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., has died. He was 74.

Coleman additionally served as president of the John M. Langston Bar Assn. of Los Angeles, based within the Nineteen Twenties to serve and assist Black attorneys excluded from different bar associations.

Coleman as soon as recounted being instructed {that a} Black legal professional couldn’t win circumstances in Glendale or Fullerton. Within the face of racism, “I actually believed I needed to be higher than anyone else,” he mentioned.

Within the courtroom, “he knew each rule back and forth,” mentioned Ian Stewart, an legal professional who labored with Coleman on the regulation agency Wilson Elser. However “his fashion was one the place he may actually join.”

He was tenacious, Stewart mentioned, however “he’d do it with a smile on his face.” Should you have been on the alternative facet of a authorized battle, “you’d find yourself shaking arms and strolling away buddies.”

Coleman grew up in Los Angeles, one in all 4 kids. As a young person at Los Angeles Excessive College, he was “maybe the most well-liked individual on campus,” mentioned Earl E. Thomas, a good friend and fellow legal professional. Jackie Herod, one other longtime good friend, mentioned he was generally known as a pointy scholar who ran lengthy distance and joined an array of golf equipment, together with cheerleading and debate.

Thomas mentioned that at events, “Roland would get in the midst of the ground, and he would begin dancing,” doing the most recent strikes as everybody shaped a circle round him to observe. “Lots of people would say the social gathering didn’t begin till Roland obtained there.”

Coleman graduated from the College of Southern California and Loyola Regulation College. He labored for the Los Angeles metropolis legal professional’s workplace after which for the California Division of Transportation earlier than being employed at Wilson Elser, the place he grew to become a companion.

“He was a famous person,” mentioned Pat Kelly, who employed Coleman on the agency and labored carefully with him. “He may simplify tough points and clarify them in a commonsense manner.”

Past the courtroom, Coleman volunteered to help L.A. County residents as freeway development was “wreaking havoc on the residents locally,” serving to them to deal with complaints about noise and different hazards, mentioned U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles).

Along with his assist, “we compelled Caltrans to arrange an workplace proper locally the place they might cope with complaints,” Waters mentioned. And when residents have been being displaced, “we have been in a position to power them to extend the presents for these properties. … Roland was principally accountable for all of that.”

Coleman “simply took it on prefer it was his job,” mentioned retired Superior Court docket choose John Meigs Sr., who grew to become buddies with him as a regulation scholar.

As president of the Langston Bar Assn., Coleman began a corridor of fame to honor folks within the authorized occupation who “persevered, sacrificed and — regardless of these obstacles and people hardships — succeeded,” mentioned retired choose Allen Webster, one other former president of the affiliation.

After the 1991 killing of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black lady who was shot by a Korean-born shopkeeper, the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. was divided on a recall marketing campaign in opposition to Decide Joyce A. Karlin, who sentenced the shopkeeper to probation. Coleman later instructed the Metropolitan Information-Enterprise that many within the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. noticed the recall effort as an assault on the independence of the courts.

“I admire the independence of the courts, I perceive the need for that. However these sorts of issues of respect need to be a two-way avenue,” Coleman recalled telling leaders of the affiliation. Courts “need to respect the individuals who seem earlier than them.”

The affiliation determined to not weigh in in opposition to the recall.

“Inwardly, he was delicate to the sentiments and wishes of others. Outwardly, he was fearless and fierce in his dedication to buddies, household and neighborhood,” his sister Carmen Freeman mentioned.

Coleman led the L.A. County Bar Assn. from 2001 to 2002, the second Black individual to carry the place because the group was based in 1878.

As president, “his focus was, ‘How can we higher assist the neighborhood that we serve?’” mentioned Danette Meyers, an legal professional who was lively with the affiliation.

Throughout his presidency, Coleman pledged to make attorneys out there professional bono to help victims of discrimination, becoming a member of state officers on the announcement of a hotline to report hate crimes. He additionally labored to enhance public entry to authorized companies.

“His voice had a number of credibility,” mentioned Miriam Krinsky, who adopted him as county bar affiliation president. “When he chimed in on a difficulty, I actually needed to guarantee that I used to be listening carefully.”

Later in life, Coleman suffered from well being issues and endured years of frustration as he tried to get onto the ready listing for a donated kidney. The Occasions chronicled his ordeal, which included tangling with a medical health insurance firm over the place he could possibly be evaluated for a potential transplant.

Coleman determined to modify insurance policy to enhance his possibilities and began driving for a ride-share firm to pay for increased premiums. He instructed The Occasions that on his first day as a driver, he started chatting with a passenger he picked up in North Hollywood, who promptly supplied to donate a kidney if accepted.

“There was by no means a stranger in Roland’s life,” Herod mentioned.

Coleman by no means obtained a kidney transplant. However whilst he grew more and more in poor health, he may make Herod snigger throughout telephone calls.

“He would say, ‘Jackie, for those who see a kidney working round, catch it. Catch it for me, and I’ll decide it up.’”

Coleman is survived by his spouse, Evelyn Jenkins Coleman, son Roland Coleman III (also referred to as R.J.), stepson Jeremy Jenkins, sister Carmen Freeman and brother Lorin Coleman.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here