Coleman comes home for Luncheon With Books

Kenneth Coleman talked about his ties to West Point and Clay County during Thursday's Luncheon With Books at the Bryan Public Library.
Staff Writer

Kenneth Coleman was surrounded by family and friends during his first visit as a published author to Luncheon With Books at the Bryan Public Library Thursday.

He brought copies of his book "The Thirteenth Juror" to sign after speaking.

"My roots run deep in Clay County," Coleman said. "I was born in Montpelier. Lee Coleman is one of the few people who will claim to be kin to me. It is so good to see everyone here."

Coleman said he spent three decades in the Third District Court, serving Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties as district attorney.

"I stayed pretty busy with eight court houses to cover," Coleman said. "And there are no books telling people how to be a district attorney. You just learn as you go and hope you have good people already working there to help."

After retirement, Colman decided he would like to write a book to help young district attorneys understand the job better and know what to expect.

"I sat down, after being retired from the job for 14 years to write a book," Coleman said. "That's when I discovered I had forgotten a lot. And the laws are subject to change. It would take a lot of research to write that book. I was too lazy to do all that research."

Coleman instead wanted to write a book about the challenging times during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Total desegregation of schools didn't happen until 1970. After 16 years of delays and token desegregation after U.S. Supreme Court gave the order to dismantle the state’s dual school system, a steady stream of legal action by black parents and federal intervention toppled the state’s 95-year-old “separate but equal” educational system in which white school children went to one school system and black school children went to another.

"There was a lot of turmoil and distrust during those years," Coleman said. "President Lyndon Johnson led the charge with the ‘Civil Rights Act' of 1964, and things were changing."

He said if you talk to young people now, they have no concept and have a hard tome believing those things ever took place.

"The things that went on during that time in history were horrible," Coleman said. "The house where we lived was shot into. In the book, I wanted to draw an awareness so maybe those things will never happen again."

Coleman said his wife read the book when he finished it and edited out many of the descriptions.

"Many things were said back then and people used terms that today are completely inappropriate," Coleman said. "We need to learn from the mistakes that were made in the past so we don't continue to make the same mistakes again."

Coleman said he put the book in Colfax County. Palo Alto was the county seat. He said being a lawyer, that would be the best place to live since crime in the county is almost non-existent.

"The Thirteenth Juror' is a fictionalized story based on what I saw and heard," Coleman said. "I wanted to show the effort that was made toward equality by ordinary people."