His death was confirmed by a spokeswoman for the international law firm O’Melveny & Myers, where Mr. Coleman was a senior partner in its Washington office. He lived at a care facility with his wife of more than 70 years, Lovida Coleman.
…In one [civil rights case before the United States Supreme Court,] Mr. Coleman, recruited by Thurgood Marshall, was an author of the legal briefs that successfully pressed the court to outlaw segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
Ten years later, he argued a case that led to a Supreme Court decision establishing the constitutionality of racially mixed sexual relations and cohabitation. And in 1982, he argued that segregated private schools should be barred from receiving federal tax exemptions. The court agreed.
Coleman — who was the second African-American to hold a cabinet post and was appointed as transportation secretary by President Gerald R. Ford in March 1975 — died from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, the former Lovida Hardin of Alexandria; three children, Lovida Hardin Coleman Jr. of McLean, Va., William T. Coleman III of Penn Valley, Pa., and Hardin Kennedy Coleman of Boston; and four grandsons, reports The Washington Post.