Commission on Human Rights
Governor speaks at service for the late Louis Coleman today in capitol rotunda
FRANKFORT – Governor Steven Beshear spoke today at a memorial service to honor the recently deceased Rev. Louis Coleman Jr. The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights hosted the event in the state capitol rotunda. Approximately 130 people attended, including the reverend’s widow Etta Murphy Coleman, at least two of the couple’s children, several grandchildren and other family members.
Gov. Beshear spoke warmly of his meeting with Rev. Coleman soon after the governor took office in January. “We spoke of several issues about which Louis was concerned,” the governor said, “from minority hiring to education to environment.
“Whether people agreed with his stances on issues or not, Louis Coleman’s actions in the arena of social justice sprang from his big, big heart,” Beshear said.
The governor recalled his visit with the well-known activist from Louisville who was in his mid-sixties. He said Coleman jokingly told him that Mrs. Coleman was not convinced the governor invited Coleman to the capitol. “Louis said Mrs. Coleman wanted to know if Louis was invited or if he was going to Frankfort to get arrested,” Gov. Beshear said with a smile.
Rev. Coleman’s fight for solutions to issues such as discrimination against African Americans and other minorities or against legislation to allow concealed weapons often led to his arrest, but also frequently led to change, the governor said.
John J. Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, reported that Coleman, with whom he was friends for many years, visited the Human Rights headquarters in Louisville on June 19, about two weeks before his death on July 5.
“He was worried about the shockingly low numbers of minority teachers and principals in Kentucky schools,” Johnson said.
Coleman’s conversation with the commissioners that day led to a data collection project on the subject by the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, which the agency expects to release in the fall, Johnson said.
“Louis leaves a legacy to young people of speaking out, standing up, and fighting for what you believe is right, for people who need an outstretched hand, and for the good of society,” Johnson said.
Former Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert also spoke at the one-hour service along with several commissioners of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Current Chief Justice John Minton Jr. and other Kentucky Supreme Court justices attended.
At the end of the service, the Kentucky Human Rights Commission unveiled a new poster for its Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians educational series, which is widely used by schools and libraries. Today, Louis Coleman became the Gallery’s 44th member. The commission presented the first poster of her husband to Mrs. Coleman as a keepsake.
The Kentucky Human Rights Commission is the state government agency that enforces laws prohibiting discrimination, including the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and policies of federal civil rights laws.