Exit Interview: William Coleman

The North Philadelphia native and attorney talks politics and history in his new autobiography

EI: I can see why you like that one. You also served on the Warren Commission. Did you ever say to Arlen Specter, “You’re kidding me with this single-bullet theory”?


WC: Well, everybody said that at the beginning. But he kept at it, and he convinced Earl Warren and Gerald Ford that they should accept it.

EI: With your current rate of $1,200 an hour, are you concerned that your billables are contributing to the national debt?

WC: [laughs] It contributes to the income tax. Last year, one company, which I won’t name, paid us $80 million. That’s my client. So it’s good to know you can make money. On the other hand, I did the Bob Jones and Brown cases for free.

EI: Do you think the country is more divided politically these days, or is that just a perception amplified by the Internet and cable news?

WC: I hope that’s just the perception. The success of the United States depends in large part on having a president who knows what he’s doing and people willing to work with him. I thought President Ford was very good. The worst president was Woodrow Wilson, particularly after his second marriage. He resegregated all of the District of Columbia.

EI: What’s your assessment of Obama?

WC: He’s probably one of the brightest guys of his generation. I wish that somehow after the presidency is over, he could get together with 100 businesspeople, like my friend the head of IBM and the lady that’s head of Pepsi Co., and spend a day or two talking about how to create jobs.

EI: We try to throw some humor into these, and I don’t know if you’ll get this popular culture reference, but your book is titled Counsel for the Situation. There’s this character on television who calls himself The Situation. Do you know this guy?

WC: Is that the one that’s on the Fox program?

EI: No. It’s a show on MTV called Jersey Shore.

WC: I haven’t seen that.