Coleman

During a 1949 an effort to revive beats, Patrolman Monroe Coleman worked to build rapport with kids living at the Logan Fontenelle housing project. Coleman retired more than three decades later after achieving the rank of deputy police chief.

Richard Artison and his daughter Lisa developed profiles of people from north Omaha who achieved success in their businesses and careers after overcoming difficult circumstances.

As I reported on Feb. 18, the Artisons donated beautifully framed profiles of these pioneers to the Great Plains Black History Museum, which plans to display them this summer during Native Omahan Days.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the profiles:

Ray D. Gaines was born in 1932 in Minneapolis but grew up in Omaha. He attended Creighton University and Creighton’s School of Medicine. He completed residencies in family practice and general surgery in California and Michigan. Teaching and mentoring surgical residents, medical students and college undergraduates were his professional priorities. He served as chief of general surgery at both the Douglas County and Veterans Administration Hospitals and Creighton University Medical Center for 37 years.

Lillian Avant Dorsey was born in 1911. She was one of nine children born to Alabama sharecroppers who believed strongly about education for their children. At age 5, Lillian and her family moved to Omaha. In 1932, during the Depression, Lillian was forced to drop out of Omaha University. Fourteen years later, when her husband went overseas to fight in World War II, Dorsey became one of four women to enroll in Creighton University’s pharmacy school and was one of two who graduated. In 1946, while in pharmacy school, she secured a position in the pharmacy at Methodist Hospital.

James G. “Jim” Jewell was a visionary who constructed the landmark Jewell Building at 24th and Grant Streets in 1923. With the famed Dreamland Ballroom on the second floor and the Tuxedo Barbershop and Tuxedo Billiards on the first floor, the Jewell Building was a magnet for all ages. Jewell’s place in the history of Omaha’s African-American community is significant because he constructed one of the first substantial commercial buildings in north Omaha, a statuesque commercial brick structure occupying nearly a half a block. Jewell was a prominent pioneer businessman and a generous contributor to worthy causes.

Monroe Coleman Sr. was born in Epps, Louisiana, in 1919, the fifth of eight children. His family moved to Omaha when he was 2 years old. He was the valedictorian of his South High School graduating class and a member of the first student body to attend Omaha University’s Dodge Street location. He served in the Army during World War II and joined the Omaha Police Department in 1947. As an officer in the Army Reserves, he was recalled to active duty during the Korean War in 1951. He was the city’s first African-American to earn the rank of deputy police chief.

All the above people achieved impressive success despite the lack of generational wealth and benefit of the doubt and despite racism and discrimination. Their success during that time is something for black people of today to be very proud of.

One of the purposes of the father-daughter team’s profiles of outstanding African-Americans in north Omaha is to educate black youngsters. They would like them to learn about black people who succeeded in life against all odds.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” It is obvious that the Artisons adhere to that.

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