Senators Reintroduce Bill to Name Transportation Department Headquarters After First African American Secretary

February 24, 2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, as well as eight other Senators, today reintroduced the William T. Coleman Jr. Department of Transportation Headquarters Act. This legislation would name the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) headquarters after William T. Coleman, Jr., the fourth United States Secretary of Transportation and first African American to serve in the position. The bill unanimously passed the Senate in the 116th Congress and was cosponsored by Vice President Kamala D. Harris while she was serving as a Senator.

The other cosponsors include Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, John Barrasso, R-WY., and Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

“As an accomplished legal scholar, World War II veteran, and civil rights leader, Mr. Coleman had already made his mark on history before being selected to serve as Secretary of Transportation,” Wicker said. “While at DOT, he provided a forward-looking vision for the future of transportation, spearheading the first comprehensive national transportation policy study and several important reform efforts. Naming the Department of Transportation headquarters after Secretary Coleman would be a fitting tribute for this distinguished public servant.”

“We send a powerful message when we name our buildings and institutions after those who left the world a better place,” said Carper. “William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. certainly did that. He broke barriers as a civil rights leader and as our country’s first Black Secretary of Transportation. Renaming the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Transportation after Secretary Coleman is one way we can honor his legacy for generations to come." 

“Former Transportation Secretary William Coleman was a dedicated public servant and civil rights icon,” Capito said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in co-sponsoring this legislation to commemorate his extraordinary life and public service by renaming the Department of Transportation headquarters building in his honor.”

“I am proud to sign on to this legislation that would name the USDOT headquarters after former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr.,” said Inhofe. “Secretary Coleman spent his life forging a path of meaningful public service and it seems fitting to honor his life in this way.”

“As we celebrate Black History Month, I am proud to cosponsor this bill to rename the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters after the late William Thaddeus Coleman Jr., a Philadelphia native who was the first African-American to serve as Secretary of Transportation,” said Casey. “From arguing 19 cases in front of the Supreme Court, including Brown v. Board of Education, to his time at the helm of the Department of Transportation, Secretary Coleman exemplified the virtues of public service and I look forward to honoring his legacy.”

“As the first African-American law clerk on the Supreme Court and the first African-American Secretary of Transportation, William T. Coleman, Jr. was a trailblazer who dedicated his life to public service,” said Toomey. “Mr. Coleman’s dedication to promoting equality and fairness had a profound impact on our country. His legacy is so impressive that former President Clinton rightly saw fit to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I am proud to honor this distinguished Pennsylvanian and am hopeful that my colleagues will quickly approve this bipartisan measure.”

“This Black History month, we honor the pioneering public servant, William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr. Secretary Coleman who was the first African American to serve as Secretary of  the Department of Transportation and helped pave the way for folks like myself to enter into public service,” said Scott. “I am proud to join my colleagues in dedicating the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Transportation after Secretary Coleman.”

“William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. was a man of many firsts – he was first in his class at Harvard Law, the first African American Supreme Court law clerk, and the first African American to serve as Secretary of the Department of Transportation,” said Booker. “His service to our nation was impactful and inspiring and I am proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues in celebration of the tremendous legacy of Mr. Coleman, who deserves no less than having the headquarters of the Department of Transportation he once led named in his honor.”

“William T. Coleman Jr. devoted his life to public service,” said Barrasso. “He championed the cause of civil rights in the courts and became the first African American Secretary of Transportation. Naming the Department of Transportation headquarters after Mr. Coleman is a well-deserved honor. I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation.”

“William T. Coleman, Jr. lived a life of firsts and blazed trails at the heights of our courts and our government, paving a path for others to follow in his stead and pushing our American experiment closer to its ideals,” Warnock said. “Renaming the headquarters of the federal department he made history leading is a fitting tribute that will help carry his legacy and the lessons of his leadership into our nation’s future.”

To read the bill, click here.

The Commerce Committee exercises jurisdiction over the DOT.