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Family, Friends, And Community Reflect On Ed Coleman's Many Splendored Life

Brian Bull

Hundreds gathered Tuesday inside the Willamette Christian Center in Eugene to celebrate the life of Ed Coleman.  In his 84 years, Coleman took on many roles, including English professor, civil rights advocate, and musician...before dying January 21st from complications from influenza.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.

The memorial service was a mix of music, poetry, and anecdotes.  Coleman played bass for Ella Fitzgerald, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.  He also met famed civil rights figures like Martin Luther King Junior and James Baldwin. 

Undated photo of Ed Coleman, a U of O English professor (later Emeritus) and musician, social activist, and mentor to many.

Among those honoring Coleman’s legacy was friend Victor Webb.

“He was so well loved in this community, because…I don’t know, I haven’t seen this kind of turnout for black folks in Eugene, before… -- (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)”.

Webb said Coleman held high expectations for himself and others, and was passionate about life.

“He lived his moments well.  Ed did a great job, here in his life. He was a wonderful guy.”  

Coleman pushed for diversity and acceptance, including at the U of O where he taught for more than three decades.  At the service, Father Peter shared an example of Coleman’s humor.

“He went to a restaurant and someone said to him, ‘We do not serve colored people here’ and his response was “That’s good, because I don’t eat them.” 

One surprise during the service was when Coleman’s brother Hayward skyped in from the Philippines, to pay tribute.

“Always know that this man, was one of the greatest men in my entire life.  I want to thank you all for listening, and for being here, honoring my brother.” 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Hundreds gathered inside the Willamette Christian Center for the memorial service.

After the service, Callan Coleman said his father would’ve wanted to be most remembered for one thing:

“For helping a lot of people grow to their highest heights, help them to know that they could work hard and achieve something in this great country of ours, and through discipline and doing the right things, and then caring about people.” 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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