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More than 200 people came to Calvary Cemetery in Shelbyville last Friday afternoon to honor the life of the Rev. Louis Coleman.
Coleman, who died on July 5 of a seizure attack, was one of the loudest voices for equal rights here locally and across the state.
Although Coleman was from Louisville, he led a church here locally and developed a love for Shelby County. Through decades of service in the community, he has left a legacy.
Brenda Jackson, Shelby County School Board chair, said Coleman's dedication and service are an example to follow for future generations.
"We need to pick up the mantel Rev. Coleman, Rev. H.H Greene, LeeNor Mack and others have left us. We need to take interest in our community, city, county and state. We need to evaluate our talents and gifts and work together," she said.
Jackson said minorities still have to struggle for equal housing and equal job and educational opportunities.
Walter Harris, interim pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, said Coleman served as an example by taking a bold stance on many different issues. Harris expects more voices to emerge and leadership to come from more than one person in the future. He said Coleman empowered local African Americans to take a stand.
"He gave every one of us a chance to have a voice," he said. "I think that is going to be a part to his legacy."
Harris said leaders such as the Rev. Ron Holder, the Rev. Kilen Gray, the Rev. Don Burley, and the Rev. Robert Marshall, will continue where Coleman left off.
Mattie Bray, who started working with Coleman in 90s, said she is confident that leaders in the African American community will take the torch and tackle issues such as the local drug problem.
"That's what we need. Somebody to step up and fill that gap," she said. "And I really do believe that they will."
Coleman's wife, Etta Murphy-Coleman, said the day before Coleman passed away, he gave her three position papers to type and edit on issues that he was concerned about. These issues included the quality of education that African Americans were receiving, dropout rates, and the recent Supreme Court's ruling on handguns.
Etta said these issues point to inequalities and injustices that still exist and should spur the community on to action.
"There is a lot of work left undone," she said.