James Plemon "J.P." Coleman (January 9, 1914 – September 28, 1991) was the 52nd Governor of Mississippi and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

James P. Coleman
Governor James P. Coleman, Jan. 17, 1956 to Jan. 19, 1960 (14143043313).jpg
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
In office
May 31, 1981 – January 31, 1984
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
In office
Preceded byJohn Robert Brown
Succeeded byJohn Cooper Godbold
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
In office
July 26, 1965 – May 31, 1981
Appointed byLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byBenjamin Franklin Cameron
Succeeded byE. Grady Jolly
52nd Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 17, 1956 – January 19, 1960
LieutenantCarroll Gartin
Preceded byHugh L. White
Succeeded byRoss Barnett
33rd Mississippi Attorney General
In office
January 22, 1952 – January 17, 1956
GovernorHugh L. White
Preceded byGreek L. Rice
Succeeded byJoseph Turner Patterson
Personal details
James Plemon Coleman

(1914-01-09)January 9, 1914
Ackerman, Mississippi
DiedSeptember 28, 1991(1991-09-28) (aged 77)
Ackerman, Mississippi
Political partyDemocratic
EducationGeorge Washington University Law School (LL.B.)

Education and careerEdit

Born on January 9, 1914, in Ackerman, Mississippi, Coleman received a Bachelor of Laws in 1939 from the George Washington University Law School.[1] He served upon the staff of Mississippi Congressman Aaron L. Ford.[citation needed] He entered private practice in Ackerman from 1939 to 1946. He concurrently served as district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District of Mississippi from 1940 to 1946. He was a Judge of the Mississippi Circuit Court for the Fifth Judicial District from 1947 to 1950. He was a Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1950. He was Mississippi Attorney General from 1950 to 1956. He was the 52nd Governor of Mississippi from 1956 to 1960. He was a Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1960 to 1964. He was in private practice in Choctaw County, Mississippi from 1960 to 1965.[1]

Little CongressEdit

During his service with Congressman Ford, in Washington, D.C., Coleman made a name for himself by challenging and defeating another young southern congressional staffer, future President Lyndon B. Johnson, for Speaker of the Little Congress, a body that Johnson had dominated before Coleman's challenge.[citation needed] Coleman and Johnson became lifelong friends.[citation needed]

Gubernatorial serviceEdit

Coleman became the Governor of Mississippi in 1956 as a moderate candidate in a campaign where he promised to uphold segregation. As Governor, he befriended Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John F. Kennedy, but set up the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. When Clennon Washington King, Jr. attempted to integrate the University of Mississippi, Coleman went to Oxford to prevent Mr. King's matriculation and fulfill his promise of segregation of all schools. He objected to being called a moderate by his critics, preferring to characterize himself as a 'successful segregationist'.[2]

Unsuccessful gubernatorial campaignEdit

In his subsequent campaign for governor in 1963, Coleman lost the Democratic nomination to Paul B. Johnson, Jr., a son of a former governor. Segregationist Johnson painted Coleman as a racial moderate and friend of the Kennedy administration. Paul Johnson's campaign staff charged that during the 1960 presidential campaign Coleman had allowed Kennedy to sleep in the Governor's Mansion in the bed formerly used by the late Governor and United States Senator Theodore Bilbo.[3] Johnson went on to defeat the Democrat-turned-Republican Rubel Phillips in the 1963 general election, which presented Mississippi voters with a new-at-the-time opportunity to choose between candidates of different parties.

Federal judicial serviceEdit

Coleman in 1976

President Kennedy offered Coleman various posts, including United States Secretary of the Army and United States Ambassador to Australia, but Coleman declined.[citation needed]

Coleman was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson on June 22, 1965, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated by Judge Benjamin Franklin Cameron. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 26, 1965, and received his commission on July 26, 1965. He served as Chief Judge from 1979 to 1981. He assumed senior status on May 31, 1981. His service terminated on January 31, 1984, due to his retirement.[1]

Post judicial service and deathEdit

After his retirement from the federal bench, Coleman returned to the private practice of law in Choctaw County[1] and also farmed[citation needed] until he suffered a severe stroke on December 11, 1990.[citation needed] He died on September 28, 1991, in Ackerman.[1]


J. P. Coleman State Park, a state park in Mississippi, is named after him.[citation needed]


Coleman's grandson, Josiah D. Coleman is a Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e James Plemon Coleman at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ Associated Press. (30 June 1959). "Coleman Hits Critics on TV". Clarion Ledger. (Jackson).
  3. ^ Bass, Jack; Walter De Vries (1995). The Transformation of Southern Politics: Social Change and Political Consequence Since 1945. University of Georgia Press. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-8203-1728-1.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Greek L. Rice
Attorney General of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Joseph Turner Patterson
Political offices
Preceded by
Hugh L. White
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Ross Barnett
Legal offices
Preceded by
Benjamin Franklin Cameron
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Succeeded by
E. Grady Jolly
Preceded by
John Robert Brown
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Succeeded by
John Cooper Godbold