Interview with William Coleman
QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

LET ME JUST TAKE YOU BACK TO YOUR OWN PERSONAL HISTORY FOR A MINUTE. WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THAT MOMENT TO PLAY THAT ROLE IN THE COURT PROCESS, OR THE COURT DECISION? SOMETHING IN YOUR FAMILY, SOMETHING IN YOUR EDUCATION?

William Coleman:

Well, I think that uh… my family had always been one that felt that uh, segregation was just completely wrong. I had the privilege when I was young to uh, sit at the table like Dr. Dubois and other people and we just felt that something had to be done. Uh, now, personal I think there were probably two things in my life. One was I already indicated to you, that when I was called from the Harvard Law School to go into the war to be a fighter pilot and to be, to realize that for the first time in my life I was going to be subjected to segregation uh, at the time when I was defending my country. I also remember one time when I was in the Air Corps, reading a piece in the magazine, uh when we went into our… to, to invade and the fact that the blacks who were carrying uh, the ammunition got pinned down on the beach and the black soldier had to turn to the white to tell the, and ask the white soldier, how do you work this gun, because if you show me how to shoot it I will help to defend. I realized that that meant that this country was still sending black people in the war without giving them the training that they gave every white. And I just made a commitment that thereafter that any institution that I was involved in, and any situation in public life would be one, would have to be integrated because I felt then you wouldn't have the government uh, discriminating one against the other. And so if I could identify two personal experiences that moved me even more those were the two though that I think that even if they hadn't happened, I probably would have had the same commitment.