Jimmy Coleman Obit

RIP Jimmy Coleman

James J. Coleman, Jr. (“Jimmy”), the son of Dorothy Jurisich Coleman (“Gigi”) and James J. Coleman, Sr. (“J.J.”), was born on May 7th, 1941, and passed away on March 21st, 2019, at home in New Orleans. He is survived by his beloved wife, Mary (“Minnie”), his devoted son, Jamie (Monique), his darling granddaughter Jane-Owen, and his life-long best friends, his siblings: Thomas Coleman (Dathel), Peter Coleman (Jean), and Dian Coleman Winingder (Thomas).

Jimmy, possessing a keen eye for every detail, was an avid collector of ideas, of experiences, and of friends. He began the collection of ideas during his formative education at Metairie Park Country Day School. It was also at this time that he joined the First Church of Christ Science, New Orleans, where he was a life-long member.

Excellence, a hallmark of his life, Jimmy received a B.A. from Princeton University, and a Postgraduate in Law at the University College at Oxford University. After his time in England, Jimmy returned to New Orleans to complete his Juris Doctorate at the Tulane University School of Law. Jimmy’s collection of professional experiences was as rich and varied as his collection of ideas.

Upon graduation from Tulane in 1968, Jimmy joined his father at the family law firm, now called Coleman, Johnson, Artigues & Brown. He worked with his father, J.J., almost every day for over 40 years. It was that love of family that drove most of his professional projects, including his early career as a real estate developer in the late 1960s.

A visionary with deep-seeded belief in the future of downtown New Orleans, Jimmy’s first project was the Holiday Inn Downtown-Superdome (originally known as the Howard Johnson Hotel). He went on to develop other properties with business partners: the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel, and three Poydras Street office buildings, and the Windsor Court Hotel. The Windsor Court opened in 1984 to accolades, and was widely considered one of the best hotels in the world.

In 1975, the British government named Jimmy as its honorary consul in New Orleans. It was a duty that he performed with honor for 44 years. He was the longest serving British honorary consul worldwide, and for his dedication, Queen Elizabeth II made him one of few Americans appointed as both a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1986 and Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2015. Jimmy enjoyed his work helping British citizens of every kind, from the sailors he greeted at the port, to a warm relationship with Princess Margaret who loved New Orleans Jazz, and to Prince Charles, with whom Jimmy toured the region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Jimmy also served his family with his work as Chairman of the Board of Directors of International Matex Tank Terminals, along with his brother Tommy, who was the President and CEO. He found particular fulfillment in his work for IMTT at their Bayonne New Jersey facility where he parlayed his strong interpersonal skills and precise comprehension of the local political climate to the advantage of both the business and the local community.

A gentleman of great generosity, Jimmy Coleman saw the collection of philanthropic experiences as central to a life well-lived. Steeped in a love of the arts by his artist-mother, Gigi, Jimmy began to formally patronize art institutions at a young age. In 1968, he joined the Museum of Modern Art’s International Council which promoted the International Program of Circulating Exhibitions which aimed to send exhibitions around the world. At home, he was a benefactor of the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Newport Rhode Island was a second home to Jimmy and his wife, Minnie, so it was no surprise that they continued their shared passion for art education there as well. In 1998, the Newport Art Museum named its art school the Minnie and Jimmy Coleman Center for Creative Studies. Not only bolstering British causes, Jimmy was a robust advocate for our United States armed forces and local police force. He worked to create the National Coast Guard Museum in New London, CT, which is still in the funding stage. For efforts spanning 30 years, he was awarded the National U.S. Coast Guard Spirit of Hope Award, the National Maritime Historical Society Distinguished Service Award, and the Alexander Hamilton Award from the National Coast Guard Museum Association. In addition, Jimmy founded Hermes — Beyond the Parade, a foundation that provided aid to our city’s first responders.

Jimmy and Minnie also worked with Jimmy’s siblings to support New Orleans schools. In 2016, the family sponsored the new Coleman Dining Hall at Country Day. At the Tulane law school, they established the James J. Coleman Sr. Visiting Professorship in Law, which enables the school to invite distinguished legal scholars from around the world to teach advanced short courses. Jimmy put the same indefatigable energy he displayed in his pursuit of educational, professional, and philanthropic accomplishments into his collection of friends. He was charming, dashing, and impeccably dressed, with limitless curiosity, and a knack for telling a good story; so, he was popular everywhere he went. He was a member of almost 20 social clubs, and joined the boards of many. He particularly cherished his role in the Hermes Mardi Gras organization.

Jimmy’s passion for people extended to animal friends as well. Throughout his life, he showed care for dogs, horses, birds, and more. Most importantly, Jimmy found two wonderful loves in the course of his amazing life. His first wife, Carol Owen Coleman, passed away in 1979, but gave her family all the love they could ever need. Jimmy re-married in 1985 with his dearest Minnie. She shared his life’s journey, and infused his days with romance and laughter. Services are to be held at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery at 3:00pm on April 5th. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, www.noafa.com. To view and sign the guest book, visit www.lakelawnmetairie.com