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Peter Tali Coleman (December 8, 1919 – April 28, 1997) was the first person of Samoan descent to be appointed Governor of American Samoa and later became the territory's first popularly elected governor. A member of the Republican Party, he is the only U.S. governor whose service spanned five decades (1956–1961, 1978–1985 and 1989–1993) and one of the longest-serving governors of any jurisdiction in American history.

Peter Coleman
Peter Tali Coleman.jpg
43rd, 51st, and 53rd Governor of American Samoa
In office
January 2, 1989 – January 3, 1993
LieutenantGalea'i Poumele
Gaioi Galeai
Preceded byA. P. Lutali
Succeeded byA. P. Lutali
In office
January 3, 1978 – January 3, 1985
LieutenantTufele Liamatua
Preceded byRex Lee
Succeeded byA. P. Lutali
In office
October 15, 1956 – May 24, 1961
Preceded byRichard Lowe
Succeeded byRex Lee
High Commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
In office
July 1, 1976 – July 9, 1977
Preceded byEdward E. Johnston
Succeeded byAdrian P. Winkel
Personal details
Born(1919-12-08)December 8, 1919
Pago Pago, American Samoa, U.S.
DiedApril 28, 1997(1997-04-28) (aged 77)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Nora Stewart (1941–1997)
EducationGeorgetown University (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
RankUS-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Battles/warsWorld War II

Coleman’s career spanned over the entire last half of the 20th century. He was a recipient of the 1997 American Samoan Governor’s Humanitarian Award and gained the chiefly title Uifa’atali from his home village of Pago Pago.[1] During his first term of office, a constitution, containing the bill of rights and providing protection for Samoans against alienation of their lands and loss of their culture, was approved in 1960, and an American Samoa flag was adopted.[2]

He was the founding chairman of the territory's Republican Party, serving from 1985 to 1988.[3] He is the only person in American Samoa history to have served as both appointed and elected Governor.[4]


Early life and careerEdit

Born and raised in Pago Pago, American Samoa, Coleman attended the faifeau and Marist schools, before graduating from Saint Louis School in Honolulu, Hawaii. His parents were Navyman Patrick Dyke Coleman from Washington, DC, and Amata Auma from the Uifaatali family. His family title, Uifaatali, was bestowed on him in 1977. Coleman later joined the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of captain during World War II. He returned to the Samoan Islands in the early 1950s and practiced law in Pago Pago and in Apia. He received his law degree from Georgetown University, and served in American Samoa both as a public defender and as the territory's attorney general.[5]

Coleman was appointed governor of American Samoa in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. At the conclusion of his term, he served a variety of positions in the Pacific Islands, including district administrator for the Marshall Islands, district administrator for the Marianas Islands, and deputy high commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, where he also served as acting high commissioner for one year.

When the Republican Party lost the White House in 1960, Coleman was assigned as deputy high commissioner of the U.S. Trust Territories. He served 17 years in that post, returning in 1977 to run in the first gubernatorial election. Coleman was the first Samoan to become Governor in 1956 and the only one who served by appointment. In 1977, he also became the first elected Governor in American Samoa. He was reelected in 1980, lost the 1984 election, and was reelected once again in 1988.[6]

Death and legacyEdit

Coleman died in 1997 in Honolulu after a two-year struggle with liver cancer.[7]

In 2014, his daughter Aumua Amata Radewagen, was elected Delegate to represent American Samoa in the United States House of Representatives.[8] Peter T. Coleman and Nora Stewart of Honolulu were married in 1941. They had thirteen children, twenty-three grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.[9]

Coleman’s legacy includes the effort to incorporate American Samoa in the Social Security system and the recognition and promotion of tourism as an economic development strategy. He began to rebuild and expand the Tafuna Airstrip to take jet planes. The policy for local autonomy moved further during his years as Governor.[10]

At the conclusion of Coleman’s three-year term, Coleman cited some of the achievements that made him proud. These included changes to the judiciary system with the addition of the district and village courts, the start of the Teacher Corps program, the addition of renal dialysis at LBJ Hospital, and the completion of the Aua-Top Mle and Aoa-Amouli roads.[11]


  1. ^ Craig, Robert D. (2002). Historical Dictionary of Polynesia. Scarecrow Press. Page 43. ISBN 9780810842373.
  2. ^ Lal, Brij V. and Kate Fortune (2000). The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. University of Hawaii Press. Page 560. ISBN 9780824822651.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Shaffer, Robert J. (2000). American Samoa: 100 Years Under the United States Flag. Island Heritage. Pages 197 and 199. ISBN 9780896103399.
  5. ^ Sunia, Fofo I.F. (2009). A History of American Samoa. Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. Page 262. ISBN 9781573062992.
  6. ^ Sunia, Fofo I.F. (2009). A History of American Samoa. Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. Page 262. ISBN 9781573062992.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Fili Sagapolutele (November 5, 2014). "1st woman elected as American Samoa delegate". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  9. ^ Sunia, Fofo I.F. (2009). A History of American Samoa. Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. Page 262. ISBN 9781573062992.
  10. ^ Sunia, Fofo I.F. (2009). A History of American Samoa. Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. Pages 261 and 263. ISBN 9781573062992.
  11. ^ Sunia, Fofo I.F. (2009). A History of American Samoa. Amerika Samoa Humanities Council. Page 303. ISBN 9781573062992.

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