Where to now?
For Downey, the story of his grandparents is one of overcoming segregation through the power of personal accomplishment. He notes the times that his family mixed business and pleasure with their white counterparts in the community, and they were respected.
In 1934, when Downey was a small boy, he was hit by a car. Light-skinned with blue eyes, he was taken to the hospital, but they quickly ascertained that he was from an African-American family and almost refused to treat him. However, the information that he was “Dr. Coleman’s grandson,” won him the treatment he needed at the whites-only hospital.
“It’s an incredible story,” Downey said of his grandfather’s life.
His part in the story seems to be clearing up the truth from the fiction.
“There’s all kinds of misinformation out there,” he said. “My mother said all her sisters and brothers had a college education. That’s not true.”
Coleman’s mother was Lillian Margarite Coleman, a graduate of Prairie View who became a teacher and principal. She moved back to Corsicana in 1965 to care for her aging mother, became heavily involved in politics and community service for the veterans administration, the historical society, the park, library and VFW.
The house, which had declined to a skeleton of a home with unpainted walls and sagging porch, and brush and weeds hiding it from the street, is now gone. It will be up to the family to decide whether or not to sell the property or keep it.
The historical marker, pointing out Coleman’s accomplishments, is one of the few things still standing on the property now.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com