published Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Cooper: Harold Eugene Coleman inspires many

I was fiddling with the Sirius/XM satellite radio tuner on my car last weekend when I heard disc jockey Cousin Brucie on his "Cousin Brucie's Saturday Night Party -- Live" show on the '60s on 6 station.

It was haunting. I thought I was hearing Gene Coleman.

Since the Chattanooga man had spent many years in the radio business, it might have been him in a new gig, but he had died earlier in the week after suffering several months with some heart-related illnesses.

Harold Eugene Coleman, pastoral-care provider for truck drivers at Covenant Transport, was the founding pastor of the local Carpenter's Cowboy Church.

Shortly after starting to cover faith news in 1999, I wrote a story on the then-young church, which met at the then-Ramada Inn on 23rd Street.

To do so, I spent an evening at the church's midweek musical extravaganza, The Grand Ole Covenant Opry, which Coleman told me often included even people I'd heard of in the country and gospel music fields.

My host could not have been more helpful and friendly. When I left, I knew I had a friend for life.

As such, Coleman and I met and talked many times over the years as his little-church-that-could moved from temporary home to temporary home.

Once, he invited me to have lunch with him and a friend he was eager for me to meet at Portofino's Italian Restaurant in East Ridge.

When we walked into the restaurant, you'd have thought the latest Hollywood star had walked in. The staff knew him and fawned over him, and he was equally as friendly to them.

When Coleman called one time last year, he was as excited as I'd ever heard him. The church was considering buying the former Clifton Hills Baptist Church on Rossville Boulevard, what did I think of that and, boy, did he have a lot to tell me about what might be done in the name of Jesus in that big ol' place.

It seems like I got a call every time something happened in the transaction process, and each time his enthusiasm was contagious.

Coleman had a lot of lives in Chattanooga. The Zion Bible College graduate had come to Chattanooga to pastor East Ridge Christian Church; he once followed Luther Masingill on WDEF radio; he hosted an afternoon show on WGOW radio; he helmed a radio talk show for nine years; and he was general manager of several radio stations. So he knew a lot of people in a lot of ways.

Despite his illness, just days before his death, he attended the unveiling of a road sign honoring Chattanooga radio legend Tommy Jett.

At Coleman's heart, however, was his faith and how that might be shared with other people.

I remember driving around with him once and hearing him tell story after story -- he had a million -- about the truck drivers he served as an unofficial life counselor. Officially, he produced a monthly audio show for them to listen to and helped them in innumerable other ways.

At 68, Coleman seemingly had more people to impact. Now, though, he certainly will live on through those he inspired.

Contact Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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