Served from 1973 through 1982
Chief Justice: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982
Oral History / Read the full transcript / First Investiture / Second Investiture / Portrait Dedication
Mary S. Coleman was born on June 24, 1914, in Forney, Texas. Both of Coleman’s parents were attorneys. The family moved to Washington, D.C. when she was still young.
Upon her father’s early death, Coleman’s mother took the position as chief of the section in the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for enforcement of the beer and wine provisions of the Volstead Act. Although Coleman and her mother were subjected to various threats due to her mother’s position, they enjoyed other experiences such as meeting Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover.
Coleman enjoyed her college experience and was twice voted “Miss University of Maryland.” Following her graduation, Coleman attended law school at George Washington University during the evening, in addition to working a full-time job. She met her husband, Creighton Coleman, while in law school and the couple married following their graduation.
Coleman and her children joined Creighton in Germany when he was stationed there following World War II. When she and her daughters left Germany, they were flown out during the Berlin airlift.
The family eventually settled in Marshall, Michigan, and Coleman served in private practice. Her public service career began when she became a Probate and Juvenile Court Judge from 1961 until 1973. She was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court on November 7, 1972, and began her service as the first woman to serve on the Court in 1973. She also was the first woman to serve as Chief Justice, holding that position from 1979 until close to the end of her career on the Bench. While serving on the Bench, she took great interest in the preservation of Court history. (Coleman, Mary S. Personal Interview, Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society Oral History Project, Interview by Roger Lane, at Gainesville, Florida, 21 – 23 Jan. 1991.)
Coleman retired from the Court in 1982 and died in November of 2001. (Weddon, Willah. “Mary Coleman . . . Untold Stories,” Eberly’s Michigan Journal, 1981, pp. 4-7.)
Years Served on Court:
1973 – 1982
Portrait presented on:
December 6, 1984
Oil on canvas / final varnish 1995
101.6cm X 75.57cm (40″ X 29 3/4″)
State of Michigan
Hall of Justice – 6th Floor: Entry to Courtroom
Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996