Paul Coleman was the sixth of 10 children. He grew up on the Virginia/North Carolina border near and in the town of Ridgeway, Virginia. His father died when Paul was 15 years old. During his teen years he got to know and was influenced by Johnson alumni Harold Noe (’53), Jim (’54) and Norma (Richeson ’54) Scott, Thomas Joyce (’66), L.D. Campbell (’65), and Vernon (’67) and Denny (Hamilton ’67) Eaton. He came to Johnson in 1970 and graduated with honors in 1974, president of the senior class. During his senior year, he worked for Don Gally, a Knoxville investment manager who, along with his wife, Mary, were honorary alumni of Johnson. Paul’s association with Mr. and Mrs. Gally, at that time, and later when he attended U.T. Law School and until their deaths as their legal counsel and friend, has played a key role in generous gifts from the Gally Trust, which he administers, including this beautiful pavilion.
During a three-year associate ministry at First Christian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, Paul attended and graduated from Milligan College. In 1977, he came back to Knoxville to pursue a law degree at the University of Tennessee, earning his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1979. From 1980 to 1984 he practiced law in Tampa, Florida, and earned a Master of Laws in taxation from the University of Miami. From 1984 until the present he has practiced law here in Knoxville. For much of that time he has also sat with Johnson’s Board of Trustees as our legal counsel. Paul is a brilliant attorney. Among his clients was Alex Haley, author of Roots. He is still attorney for the Haley estate. George Haley, the executor of that estate and a brother to Alex Haley, is a member of the Johnson Board of Trustees.
Although not a preacher in the usual sense of the word, in many ways Paul has lived out the Johnson ethos. He benefitted from the financial aid that has made it possible for some of Johnson’s most distinguished alumni to attend during the past 120 years. As a young boy and a grown man, he has manifested a strong work ethic. He prizes the influence on him of Johnson alumni who served in humble circumstances at the time. He believes that God has sent him and used him to help further the mission of Johnson University.
Paul loves his alma mater and has been one of Johnson’s greatest friends. One cannot recount all that he has done for this institution over the last two decades. This pavilion is a dream of his and appropriately bears his name—the Paul T. Coleman Pavilion.
--Dr. David Eubanks
Taken from Johnson University Magazine Spring 2014