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All-black schools hall of fame to induct more than 100

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cpl. James Robert Coleman Sr. left his job as head bellman at the Daniel Boone Hotel to fight in World War II.

He served from 1942 to 1946 as a "Buffalo soldier" with the 317th Engineer Combat Battalion in the 92nd Infantry Division. Next weekend, Coleman, who died in 1996, will be recognized for his time in the military by being inducted into the West Virginia All Black Schools Sports and Academic Hall of Fame.

Coleman, an alumnus of Garnet High School in Charleston, will be one of more than 100 people being inducted this year. The induction events begin Aug. 9 and run through Aug. 11 at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston. Activities include a "soul food fest," presentations and a concert featuring hall of fame inductees Rodney Boyden and Ethel Caffie-Austin. The weekend culminates with the induction ceremony Saturday and a black-tie banquet and gala following.

The purpose of the weekend is to preserve the history of the all-black schools in the state, said Helen Jackson-Gillison, president of the ABSSA.

Besides Coleman, the list of those being honored also includes choreographer Jamal Sims and the 1969 Park Central football team. Jackson-Gillison said the reason so many people are being recognized is because the recipients are all senior citizens, and the goal is to have them inducted into the hall of fame while they're still alive.

Coleman's daughters, Dauree Coleman, of Charleston, and Sally Burger, of Institute, said their father's Aug. 11 induction is special to them because it acknowledges the racism their father endured during the years he served the country.

Burger remembered her father telling her about a time he was on a train to Arizona with white soldiers. The white men started calling Coleman "monkey" and other derogatory terms, she said.

"The captain, who was white, told them, 'no they weren't and they were soldiers just as important to this country as the white soldiers,'" Burger said.

As she reflects on her father's induction, Burger thinks about how he cared about his country even though he wasn't treated fairly and was thought to be incompetent or a lesser person.

"To be willing to volunteer to fight this war -- that, to me, is great love," Burger said.

The sisters will celebrate Coleman's induction with Coleman's wife, Betty Clark Coleman, who still lives in Charleston.

Dauree Coleman said the hall of fame induction means her father is finally getting honored like other soldiers have been. She said every solider who fought has a story to tell about what he went through and what serving America meant to him.

Jackson-Gillison said that's what the induction is about -- chronicling and remembering the lives of people who attended all-black schools, especially since she knows of no other states in the country making that effort.

"Anytime you make history, to me, that speaks for itself, and that's what West Virginia is doing by having this event," she said.

To purchase tickets for next week's events, call 304-748-7116.Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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