John Brady Coleman, African-American physician, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader, was born on November 25, 1929, in Houston, Texas, to Willie Smith Coleman and Clara (Hubbard) Coleman. He had seven siblings.
Coleman grew up in Houston’s Third Ward and attended Jack Yates High School. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1951. Then he attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he earned an M.D. degree in 1956 and graduated with distinction. From 1956 to 1962 Coleman interned at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington and specialized in obstetrics/gynecology and cardiovascular areas.
Coleman married Gloria Jones in about 1955. The couple had three children: John Brady, Jr.; Garnet Frederick; and Kathleen Letitia.
In 1962 the Coleman family returned to Houston, where John opened a private practice, specializing in obstetrics/gynecology. He was named chief of obstetrics/gynecology at Riverside General Hospital in 1965, and he became chief of staff there in 1974. Coleman was also founder and president of Cullen Women’s Center, a medical facility. In addition, he practiced medicine at Houston’s St. Joseph, St. Elizabeth, and Park Plaza hospitals.
Coleman was very involved in higher education. He was general chairman of the Houston board of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and a member of the President’s Council of UNCF. He was chairman of the Houston executive board of the Texas Association of Developing Colleges. He was a member of the boards of regents of Huston-Tillotson College in Austin and Texas Southern University in Houston. In 1977 Coleman became the first black member of the board of regents of the Texas A&M University system, where he was very instrumental in leading the campaign to have Prairie View A&M University begin receiving a share of the Permanent University Fund.
Coleman was president, chairman of the board of directors, and principal owner of Houston radio station KCOH— the first black-owned radio station in the state. He also owned the J. B. Entertainment Center, a club that booked many famous world-class entertainers.
Coleman was member of the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Medical Association, the Harris County Medical Society, and the Houston Medical Forum. He also belonged to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Medical Political Society, the Houstonian Club, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Nu Boule Fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Houston Area Urban League.
Coleman served on the boards of directors of Entex Gas, Inc., the Salvation Army, the Greater Houston Partnership, the Professional United Leadership League, the Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce, the South Central YMCA, the Houston Parks Foundation, the Texas Southern University Athletic Foundation, Houston’s Operation Voter Education and Registration, and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (where he was secretary-treasurer).
Coleman was a member of the city-wide Houston YMCA advisory council and the advising boards of the Texas A&M School of Medicine, the University of Texas’s Health Science Center of Houston, and the Houston Area Alliance of Black School Educators.
John Brady Coleman died on March 5, 1994, after a long illness. His funeral at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church was attended by more than a thousand people.
Coleman earned a number of accolades during his lifetime, and many were bestowed posthumously. An annual black-tie gala in Houston that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the United Negro College Fund bore Coleman’s name for a dozen years beyond his death. A tribute honoring the memory of Coleman was read on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and was published in the Congressional Record. The portion of State Highway 35 that passes through Harris County was named the John B. Coleman Memorial Highway. The Houston Community College System named its Health Science Center for Coleman. The five-story library at Prairie View A&M University was also named for Coleman. Riverside General Hospital named in his honor a youth award that encourages outstanding students in medicine. A high-rise professional building on Almeda Street in Houston’s Third Ward still bears Coleman’s name. John and Gloria Coleman’s son Garnet has served multiple terms in the Texas legislature.
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“About John B. Coleman, November 25, 1929 – March 5, 1994,” Prairie View A&M University (http://www.pvamu.edu/pages/3672.asp), accessed on April 20, 2013. John Brady Coleman, M.D. (funeral program) March 9, 1994. Dallas Morning News, March 7, 1994. Houston Chronicle, March 7, 10, 1994; June 10, 1994; October 29, 1994; April 18, 2002; December 9, 2004; November 30, 2006. Shirelle Phelps, ed., Who’s Who Among African Americans, 9th Edition (New York: Gale Research Inc., 1996).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert J. Duncan,
“Coleman, John Brady,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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