James H. Coleman, Jr., 85, the son of a sharecropper who was forced to attend racially segregated public schools in Lawrenceville, was the first African American to serve on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Coleman joined the New Jersey Department of Labor and Industry during the final two years of Gov. Robert Meyner’s administration. Gov. Richard Hughes nominated him to serve as a judge in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Court.
In 1973, Gov. William Cahill nominated him to serve as a Union Count Court judge. He was a Superior Court Judge from 1978 to 1980, and as a state appellate court judge from 1981 to 1994.
Gov. Christine Todd Whitman nominated Coleman to serve as an associate justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1994. Gov. Donald DiFrancesco nominated him to a tenured term in 2001.
He retired in 2003 and was replaced by Justice John Wallace.