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Remembering Isaac Coleman, leader for justice

Isaac Coleman

Isaac Franklin Coleman, Jr. (1943-2016)

Clean Water for North Carolina staff and Board of Directors remember Isaac Coleman, who passed away earlier this month after a short battle with cancer, as a friend, admired fellow activist, and generous man who contributed enormously to guiding our organization during the 11 years he served on our Board of Directors.

In early 2005, we welcomed Isaac to our Board as a seasoned social justice and civil rights activist. Isaac’s interests in social and environmental justice issues began in his youth in Lexington, KY and stayed with him through his college years in Knoxville, TN and in his civil rights work in the 1960s with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi. Isaac moved to Asheville, NC in 1971 where he worked as a housing inspector for many years. It was here that Isaac became increasingly concerned with environmental issues, particularly lead contamination in city housing. He later worked part-time with UNC Asheville’s (now closed) Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which was around the time he joined CWFNC’s Board.

March 2015 staff Board retreat

Isaac (second from right) at CWFNC’s spring 2015 Board retreat.

Over the years, Isaac’s feedback on our programs and operation has been invaluable, always keeping us focused on the core of our mission as an environmental justice organization — and his presence at our events and meetings always brought laughter due to his unique sense of humor!

In our time together, we’ve had the privilege to learn about his family, his incredible history of activism, and the many projects he was involved with locally in Asheville and Buncombe County – including Read to Succeed, the reading program that was so dear to his heart. Isaac was one of the founders of Read to Succeed in 2009, and believed in the power of volunteer Reading Coaches to change the course of children’s lives by giving them opportunities.

At his memorial service, Isaac’s sisters shared that their parents had told them to “do something with your life.” Isaac certainly did, even though his ended too soon and he will be greatly missed. Please join us in honoring him by supporting or volunteering with one of the many causes he championed: Read to Succeed, Clean Water for NC, and Just Economics are just a few. Or just go out and make change in your own community; it’s what Isaac would have done!

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