Born in Lexington, Ky., on November 5, 1898. Died, May 4, 1983. Engineer. Author. Historian. Collector. University of Kentucky, B.S.M.E., 1920; M.S.M.E., 1929; Litt.D., 1947.
Author of numerous books, pamphlets and articles on Kentucky history and the lives of Kentuckians, whose library on Kentuckiana is one of the largest in private hands, he also encouraged the preservation of the history of the Commonwealth. His Kentucky library features more than 3,500 books and pamphlets, many of which are rare and valuable items.
His "Slavery Times in Kentucky" was selected in 1970 as one of 22 books on the institution of slavery to be republished as part of the "Basic African American Library."
His memberships, honorary and active, have included numerous historical societies, among them the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, the George Rogers Clark Memorial Commission, the Kentucky Civil War Commission, and the American Antiquarian Society. He also became a Thirty-Third degree Mason in 1967, the highest attainment in the Masonic Lodge.
In addition to the honorary Doctor of Literature given him by the University in 1947, he has received honorary degrees from Lincoln Memorial University (Litt.D., 1945); and Eastern Kentucky University (Doctor of Letters, 1976).
He began his education in the private school of Miss Ella M. Williams (1906-12), then entered Morton High School, graduating in 1916. In 1915, he became the first Kentuckian to hold a government (wireless telegraph or radio) operator's license--call letters 9HJ. While at UK, which he entered in 1916, he was a member of Sigma Nu, corporal of Squad 10, Company D of the Students Army Training Corps. He transferred to ROTC and was at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, when the war ended. When he earned the B.S. M.E. degree in 1920, he went to work for American Telephone and Telegraph, but moved the following year to the Fort Orange Paper Company.
Within a few years, however, he returned to Kentucky and was with Green & Taylor Electric in Hazard. In 1924, he came home to Lexington and with J. W. Davis Sr., formed the construction firm of Coleman and Davis, Inc. for 12 years involved in general contracting, engineering and building. They erected a number of homes in Lexington subdivisions.
His book, "Masonry in the Bluegrass," was published in 1933. Others followed: "Stage-Coach Days in the Bluegrass" (1935), and in the next 30 years, "Slavery Times in Kentucky," "The Beauchamp-Sharp Tragedy," "A Bibliography of Kentucky History," "Lexington During the Civil War," "The Springs of Kentucky," "Old Homes in the Blue Grass," "Famous Kentucky Duels," "Historic Kentucky," "Kentucky: A Pictorial History," "Three Kentucky Artists," "The Squire's Sketches of Lexington," "The Court Houses of Kentucky," "The Squire's Memoirs.". and "Sketches of Kentucky's Past." He also was editor of Jack Oldham's book, "Life in the Bluegrass." He wrote numerous articles for historical publications and the "Encyclopedia Britannica."
In 1931, he organized The Book Thieves, a literary group with membership limited to eight. He was awarded a 'Certificate of Commendation by the American Association of State and Local History; in 1953 he was named a Fellow of the Society of American Historians; honorary member, Lexington Rotary Club, and was named to Ornicron Delta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta.
For 30 years he was President of the Lexington Cemetery Company; President of the Kentucky Society, Sons of the Revolution (1944-46), was named to the Kentucky Heritage Commission, and since its founding in 1953, was the first Vice President of the Kentucky Civil War Round Table. He was President of the John Bradford Historical Society (195052); he was long-time deacon of the First Presbyterian Church, and an active member of the Lexington Camera Club.
When he left the contracting business in 1935, he moved to Winburn Farm, on the Russell Cave Road, and devoted full-time to farming for the next 30 years. Clement Eaton, then at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, dubbed him the "Squire of Winburn Farm," and he has been known as "the squire" ever since. He traveled extensively throughout Kentucky, filming old and historic homes, churches, covered bridges, and built a buildings, iron furnaces, covered bridges, an collection of nearly 3,000 historic pictures.
John Winston Coleman Jr. was named to the Hall of Distinguished Alumni in February 1965.