Tribune editor Charles Whisenant recently wrote a series of stories in the Tribune titled “Policeman killed 76 years ago.”
Whisenant mentioned that: “Many Arabians may not know that an Arab police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty.”
I did not know of William Coleman and his death in the line of duty and upon reading his first story, I learned that I am his great-granddaughter. It is hard for me to believe that no one in the Coleman family ever told me this story.
I do not even remember his name being mentioned.
My father was Jerry Coleman, the only child of Lula Coleman. Mama Lula was one of the six children born to William and Ethel York Coleman.
My father married Faye Taylor, one of the four children of J.P. and Birma Taylor. I was their firstborn child, Vicki Coleman.
My brother, Jerry Phillip Coleman, named after my mother’s father, J.P. Taylor, as well as my father, was born three years later.
Many Arabians will remember that my brother, Phil, was killed in a car accident when he was 18.
I have lived in Arab or nearby all of my life.
Several members of my mother’s family have compiled their genealogy. I have binders several inches thick of her lineage.
I am kin to half of Arab, which includes family with the last names Taylor, Smalley, Martin, Hart, Cooley, Leak, Bates, Graves, Deerman, Wooten and others.
On my father’s side, I know very little. I know of my grandmother, Lula Coleman, and her five siblings.
These were all named in the Tribune’s first story.
Mama Lula worked as a seamstress at Star Cleaners in Arab (Known later as Nell’s Cleaners).
She made clothes for my brother and me – anything she sewed was beautiful.
My grandmother’s sister, Frances Coleman Royer, had a son named George Royer, an attorney, from Huntsville. He was nicknamed Rusty because he had auburn hair.
My grandmother’s brother, Sam Coleman, had a daughter named Donna.
The paper spoke of a sister, Maude Lee Coleman, though her signature was Madie Leigh Coleman.
Aunt Madie Leigh was a major in the Army, a nurse who traveled all over the world and never married.
She was the rock of the six children and always very generous to those in need.
My aunt may have inspired my love of travel. She brought me beautiful dolls from all over Europe and brought my brother a book written by Hans Christian Andersen of Denmark.
I remember other details about the siblings and know that most of them were buried at Union Grove Baptist Church cemetery. I am not sure if William and Ethel are buried there.
Madie Leigh, Mama Lula and Henry lived together on Fifth Street NE across from Arab High School, the same street where I grew up.
I knew most of their neighbors from the many times I visited with my grandmother.
I appreciate Barbara Snow for her research, and Charles Whisenant for sharing the stories with Tribune readers.
I have grown up knowing many of my mother’s extended family and now I feel that I more truly know about my father’s family.
Knowing that I have a police officer in my family tree makes me proud.
I also appreciate the idea that our city’s leaders are considering erecting a monument to Arab’s only slain police officer.
My children, Kimberly Reed Saylor and Jeffrey Taylor Reed, are William Coleman’s great,great-grandchildren, and now they know the legacy he left behind.
My thanks again to those who were interested enough to publish the story.
Vickie Coleman Miller