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Professor, activist, musician Ed Coleman dies at 84

EUGENE, Ore. - The community is remembering Dr. Edwin Coleman II, who passed away Thursday at the age of 84 from complications of influenza.

Dr. Coleman was a beloved professor at the University of Oregon, an accomplished jazz musician and civil rights activist. He was a fixture in the Eugene community for more than three decades.

Callan Coleman, one of Dr. Coleman's two sons, remembers his dad with laughter.

"He'd probably think of something to say right now," Coleman said while talking about his Dad.

Coleman says his Dad will be remembered for his funny stories, his laughter, and his friendship.

"Students knew that they could always drop into his office and talk about school and life," Coleman said, "Homesickness and things like that. They knew he would take the time to mentor them and listen to them."

Dr. Coleman also poured his energy into civil rights. He was born in segregated Arkansas in 1932, then lived in the projects in Alameda, California. His family says from a young age he excelled in academics and playing the violin.

Dr. Coleman joined the military and served in the Korean War. It was during his time in the military that he learned to play acoustic bass. He later joined the jazz scene in San Francisco when he moved there for college. He played bass with jazz pioneers, like Cal Tjader, Vince Guaraldi, and Peter Paul & Mary.

Dr. Coleman moved his family to Eugene in 1966 to study at the University of Oregon for his doctorate in theater. He joined the English department as an assistant English professor in 1971, where he later started the university's first African American literature program.

Dr. Coleman served on a number of organizations and committees on campus that promoted racial equality, including the President's Committee on Race, the Affirmative Action Search Committee.

He was also an advisor for the Black Student Union and Cultural Center and sat on the board of sponsors.

Coleman said his father encouraged students to work hard towards success.

"What was important to him was to pass on what his parents taught him," Coleman said. "Dress nice, look nice, excel in what you do. That's what he was passionate about."

Dr. Coleman stepped down from the podium in the late '90s, but he did not let retirement slow him down. His family says he continued to play music and cheer on the Ducks.

"He would want people to know that he was kicking 'til the very end," Coleman said. "Kicking, jamming, laughing and loving."

There will be two memorial services for Dr. Coleman.

Monday, January 30 at 5 p.m.

Funeral Service at St. Thomas More Catholic Church

1850 Emerald St., Eugene


Tuesday, January 31 at 2 p.m.

Celebration of Life at Willamette Christian Center

2500 West 18th Avenue, Eugene

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