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Lonnie Coleman

Coleman stunned over citizen award

By Tex Rogers, Editor of the Citizen

Lonnie Coleman was surprised that he was even nominated for the Citizen of the Year Award he received March 11 at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet, and even more surprised when he was named the award’s recipient.

“When I got the letter from the chamber saying I was nominated, I said, ‘Now who did that?’” chuckled Coleman, who appeared to be a popular choice for the award sponsored by The Colorado County Citizen.

Others nominated for Citizen of the Year were Carol Key and Paula Frnka.

Coleman has lived nearly all of his 74 years in Columbus, except for time during World War II when he served with the U. S. Army in the Pacific.

During a five-year stint in the service, Coleman achieved the rank of first sergeant and earned five battle stars while serving at Guadacanal, Okinawa, Bougainville, Saipan and Japan with the 93rd “Blue Helmet” Infantry Division, the all-Negro unit.

Coleman remembers vividly when he joined the Army. He went to the Colorado County Courthouse in November 1942 to enlist, and former County Judge Lester Cranek enlisted with him. “It was a cold day and I loaned Lester my coat, “ Coleman recalled.

After leaving the army in 1947, Coleman returned to his job as janitor at the Columbus Post Office and stayed on the job a total of 47 years. He also worked for Sam K. Seymour at Colorado Federal Savings and Loan and later Coastal Banc Savings Association for 27 years.

Always active in his community and the affairs of Greater Smith Chapel Baptist Church, Coleman is chairman of the deacon board, president of the usher board, president of the La Grange District Usher Board, state supervisors of ushers, La Grange district; president of the Deacon’s and Layman’s Brotherhood; and past treasurer of Prince Hall Lodge No. 18, Masonic Lodge.

He has also been active in Magnolia Homes Tour, and worked for many years with the popular cake booth manned by Greater Smith Chapel Baptist Church members.

The Coleman family has been in Colorado County many generations, and Lonnie points out that his uncle, Joe Coleman, was the first butcher in Columbus.

Coleman was born in Columbus and now lives with his sister, Willie Mae Denley, remembers that a good part of his early life was spent in the care of Columbus attorney Chris Grobe and his wife.

”He raised me from when I was about 5 years old,” Coleman said, adding that many boyhood hours were spent playing with Willie [Willis}, Thomas and Henry [Harry] Youens and Roy Gillett.

“We all grew up together and played baseball together, like we was one big family,” Coleman said.

Throughout his years with the Post Office and with Colorado County Federal Savings, Coleman would spend his time helping take care of older Columbus residents and looking after their property. He recalls spending many years in the service of Lee Nesbitt.

Helping older people is still one of his past-times, even though Coleman has been retire himself several years.

While many people may think Columbus hasn’t changed much over the years, Coleman says it has, especially for his people.

“Things are a lot better,:” she [he] said. “There are a lot more opportunities now.”
Colorado County Citizen, March 19, 1997


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