Savannah mourns loss of Honorable J. Tom Coleman

Savannah mourns loss of Honorable J. Tom Coleman

WTOC is sad to report that dear friend, phenomenal community leader and Savannah native, the Honorable J. Tom Coleman, passed away shortly after midnight in Savannah. 

The former State Senator, Chatham County Commission Chairman, Savannah City Councilman, DOT Commissioner, and Georgia University Regent to only name a few, was a true leader, a fine man and a very close friend to many throughout the community. He struggled with COPD and Alzheimer's for several years.

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Coleman, born in Savannah in 1928, lived a long life full of accomplishments and achievements. He was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1981 and served until his retirement in 1995. During that time, he also participated as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and as a member of the Appropriations Committee for 12 years and member of Continuation Committee for ten years.

Prior to his service for the state of Georgia, Coleman was chairman of the Chatham County Commission and a member of Savannah City Council.

Coleman served as chairman of Bonitz of Georgia, Inc., a specialty construction company in Savannah, which he operated for over 50 years.

As a graduate of Benedictine Military School and of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, he was captain on the football teams at both BC and Georgia Tech and is a member of the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.

After graduating from Georgia Tech, Coleman joined the staff of Rossville High School as a physics teacher and football coach.

He later left the faculty at Rossville High to serve on active duty with the U.S. Army as an infantry captain during the Korean conflict and later served in the U.S. Army Reserves. His tour in Korea in 1952 was June to December.

Coleman returned to Savannah in September, 2003, after serving almost four years as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Before coming to the Department of Transportation, Coleman served as vice chairman on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia from 1995 to May 2000, where he also chaired the Facilities and Real Estate Committee.

Coleman was the driving force behind construction of the Truman Parkway. It was a floundering concept for decades, but he got it started and he got it built.

The Honorable J. Tom Coleman passed away June 4th at his Savannah home in the company of his loving family. He was 85 years old.

A visitation and rosary service will be held on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be on Saturday at 11 a.m. Both services will be held at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, located at 1003 E. Victory Dr.

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