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Winson Ralph Coleman (9.10.1905 – 9.25.1984) grew up in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and earned his undergraduate degree in Latin and Greek at a Quaker college there. The Quaker religious emphasis on quiet and contemplation may have influenced Coleman’s interest in philosophy. He won a full scholarship at elite Haverford College in Massachusetts, where he graduated with a Masters in Philosophy in 1929. He joined the faculty at Johnson C. Smith University that Fall.
“He began as an instructor in Greek. After a few years he became professor of philosophy,” his funeral program chronicled. “In addition to his regular classroom duties, Dr. Coleman served as coach of the University tennis team. He also served as Director of summer school for over ten years.” Under Coleman’s guidance the JCSU tennis team became a perennial powerhouse, winning the state championship six times.
Professor Coleman never stopped studying and learning. He became an editor of The Quarterly Review of Higher Education Among Negroes (published 1933 – 1969). He also continued his formal education, enrolling in the doctoral program at University of Chicago, an internationally renowned center for the study of philosophy. Starting in 1947 he won two fellowships funded by the General Education Board, a major philanthropic organization that helped African Americans in the South attain educational opportunities that were often denied by universities in their home states. His Chicago Ph.D. dissertation in 1950 was entitled “Knowledge and Freedom Plato and Aristotle.” He was one of only four African Americans in the nation to earn a doctorate in philosophy during the decade of the 1950s.
JCSU named Dr. Coleman as Dean of the university in 1962, supervising curriculum. That year the students dedicated their yearbook, the Golden Bull, in his honor: “Dr. Coleman may be seen between classes with briefcase in hand and head bowed, as he saunters across the campus. He appears solely as a man of culture — precise, detached, impersonal; a scholar and an academician. In class one will always find him reading a magazine if the class has not begun. At the proper time he stops, takes out a rolebook from his briefcase and thus becomes the Socratic Demon. He requires a student to do his best — and better. His ‘detachment’ is actually the tendency to withhold commendation until deserved. He applies this constant demand for improvement to himself, a factor which perhaps above all wins him the respect and admiration of everyone associated with him.”
He retired in 1974 after 45 years of service to the University. Today JCSU’s Coleman-Cuthbertson Tennis Courts honor the memory of Dr. Winson R. Coleman.
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Professor Coleman married Theodora Dugas (3.3.1907 – 6.26.2004) in 1933. Born in Augusta, Georgia, she earned her Bachelors’ degree at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta). She taught for nearly three decades, finishing her career at Double Oaks Elementary in 1963. Like a number of her neighbors in McCrorey Heights, she continued her own studies even as she taught, earning a masters in education through New York City’s Columbia University. “Though teaching was her profession, her special joy was sewing,” said her funeral program, which noted her Presbyterian faith. “She was a dedicated member of Biddleville and Memorial Churches, holding several offices and teaching Sunday School.” Theodora was also a member of the Priscilla Literary and Art Club, one of the city’s longest-running women’s clubs, founded by JCSU wives in 1909.
The couple raised three children, adults by the time that the Colemans moved into this house: Grace born about 1936, Warren Jr. born about 1939 and Edwina. Like his father, Warren Jr. earned a PhD and went on teach. During the 1990s he led Saturday Academy, a NASA program in Washington, DC, that offered training for youth in science careers.
For most of Prof. Coleman’s decades at JCSU, he and Theodora lived at 300 Martin Street, an older area immediately adjacent to campus. But McCrorey Heights beckoned. Many JCSU professors resided there, including close colleague Kenneth S. Powell, a professor/coach who taught health education and excelled at track-and-field. About 1974, as retirement approached, Dr. Coleman took the plunge and arranged for construction of a new Ranch style house, spacious and laid out on one floor, right next door to Kenny Powell at 1629 Washington Avenue.
In the 2010s this residence is the home of Jack Brayboy Jr., and wife Cheryl, who both work in broadcast media. Jack grew up a block away in McCrorey Heights, son of a beloved JCSU athletic director. Widow Jeanne Brayboy, mother of Jack Jr., still lives in the family home at 1608 Patton Avenue.
One-story Ranch style house in red brick. A low gable roof gives the house a feeling of horizontality, characteristic of the Ranch style. A rear gable projects to create a two-vehicle carport. Located on a large corner lot, the dwelling faces Washington Avenue with its carport accessed from Creek Street.
Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
First appeared in city directory
1975 – Winson R. Coleman & Theodora D.
He: Prof JCSU. She: No occupation listed.
1981 city directory — Coleman still listed.
2016 city directory — Jack & Cheryl Brayboy
[He grew up in McCrorey Hghts, son of Jeanne Brayboy on Patton Av]
City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
“Gerri Major’s Society World,” Jet Magazine, November 21, 1983. On-line at: https://books.google.com/books?id=77MDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=Winson+Coleman&source=bl&ots=ROHK1xjlIQ&sig=2m6RhSWo0mDikhbdU9bTKioQOAM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiD8Ia7uMLUAhWDNSYKHdAIAjMQ6AEITjAM#v=onepage&q=Winson%20Coleman&f=false
Golden Bull, JCSU yearbook, 1962. On-line at: https://archive.org/stream/goldenbull1962john/goldenbull1962john_djvu.txt
“Johnson C. Smith U. Honors Eight Professors,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 21, 1964. On-line at: https://www.newspapers.com/image/38650530/
Leslie, LaVonne, editor. The History of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc.: A Legacy of Service, (privately published, 2012). On-line at: https://books.google.com/books?id=1PENu3w8PGMC&pg=PT600&lpg=PT600&dq=%22Theodora+Coleman%22&source=bl&ots=36lHm-EVMY&sig=CQZklqIVyHG31SUa0Ip8vOHU6t4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjUldL7xcLUAhVF4yYKHbUsAt04ChDoAQg8MAY#v=onepage&q=%22Theodora%20Coleman%22&f=false
McClendon, John H. III, “Dr. William Ronald Jones: On the Legacy of the Late ‘Dean’ of Contemporary African American Philosophers,” Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience, American Philosophical Association, Volume 12, number 2, (Spring 1913), p. 24.
“One Time JCSU Dean Winson Coleman Dies,” Charlotte Observer, November 27, 1984.
“Saturday Academy Inspires Future Engineers,” Washington Post, December 6, 1992. On-line at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1992/12/06/saturday-academy-inspires-future-scientists-engineers/4fd812fd-9cf5-412c-8119-035e74559292/?utm_term=.86fc8a4da0c7
“Winson Coleman, Circa 1929,” photograph in the W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. On-line at: http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-i0055
“Winson Coleman in the 1940 Census,” Ancestry.com website. On-line at: https://www.ancestry.com/1940-census/usa/North-Carolina/Winson-R-Coleman_5dc62h
Coleman, Theodora, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.
Coleman, Winson, funeral program in the History Room, First United Presbyterian Church, Charlotte.