Ernest L. Coleman
As a child, Ernie Coleman watched movies about WWII fighter pilots and made up his mind about his future career.
Ernie served 22 years in the USAF, reaching the rank of Colonel in only 15 years. He flew close to 200 combat missions in Vietnam in both the F-100 and later the F-4 Phantom. He became Wing Commander of the F-111.
On October 8, 1982, while serving with the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ernie was severely injured in ejection from a training flight in an F-111A, when he ejected (along with crew member 1st LT. Scott Springer) at low level, and 50-55 degrees nose high. The attenuation bags failed and Springer received serious back injuries. Ernie was paralyzed from the waist down.
Ernie has overcome obstacles throughout his life, always concentrating on what he can do and adapting to make his desires attainable. His courage has inspired two sons to Air Force careers.
Col. Earnest L. Coleman was born on December 28, 1937, in Carthage, Texas. He graduated from Carthage High School in 1956 and in that same year, he married the love of his life, Ann Lowery. In 1961, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from Texas Technological College, Lubbock, Texas. He entered the United States Air Force in 1961 and graduated from pilot training at Craig AFB, Alabama, in May 1962. He attended Squadron Officer’s School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, in January 1965. Between 1971 and 1975, Colonel Coleman completed Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Air Command and Staff College, and received a master’s degree in Personnel Management from Central Michigan University. In July 1975, he attended the National War College in Washington.
Upon graduation from pilot training, Colonel Coleman was assigned to Luke AFB, Arizona, for F-100 training, and then to the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, England AFB, La. In September 1965, he was transferred to the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hahn AB, Germany, where he flew the F-100 and then the F-4. During his assignment to Hahn, he attended the USAF Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
From Hahn, AB, he was assigned to the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, New Mexico. He served in Southeast Asia from December 1969 to December 1970, flying 174 combat missions in the F-4. Since 1971, Colonel Coleman has served in the Tactical Fighter Programs Division, Headquarters United States Air Force.
He was promoted to the grade of Colonel in May 1978, at which time he as promoted to Commander of the 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron, once again flying F-4’s, Homestead AFB, Florida. Assistant and later Deputy Commander of Maintenance, 31st Tactical Fighter Wing, Homestead AFB, Florida; as Chief, Aircraft Systems Management Division, Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill AFB, Utah. On July 2, 1981, he assumed command of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Vice, then Wing Commander. He oversaw operations for the entire AFB, including 4 combat-ready squadrons of F-111’s. In October of 1982, he suffered an ejection/accident in the F-111 which paralyzed him. He was 100% medically retired. He was in the chair for 37 years. But even this didn’t slow him down.
MACH 2 always!!!
Colonel Coleman was a command pilot with over 3,200 hours in the F-100, F-4, and F-111. His military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with twelve Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Colonel Coleman was preceded in death by parents, Henry and Maggie Moore Coleman; son Earnest L. Coleman Jr. and great-grandson Tyler M. Newton.
He is survived by his loving bride of 63 years, Ann Lowery Coleman; daughter LeeAnn Garred and husband Andy; two sons Scott Coleman, and Todd Coleman, wife Ivy. Sister Lorene Strickland. Grand Children, William Newton, wife Lisa. Christian Newton, wife Callie. Brianna Coleman Boeke, husband Nathan. Cameron Coleman. Great Grandchild Abigail Grace Newton
To watch a video tribute to Col. Coleman go to https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/tyler-tx/earnest-ernie-coleman-8852151
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his honor to Paralyzed Veterans of America, PVA.org or PVA Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 758589, Topeka, KS 66675-8589.
Visitation for Colonel Coleman was held at Lloyd James Funeral Home on Saturday, September 14, 2019. In addition, a Memorial Service including Military honors will be performed at DFW National Cemetery at a date to be determined.
- 5/1962 Pilot training, Craig AFB, AL
- 1962 F-100 Training, Luke AFB, AZ (F-100)
- 1962-1965 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron/401st Tactical Fighter Wing, England AFB, LA (F-100)
- 9/1965-1966 10th Tactical Fighter Squadron/50th Tactical Fighter Wing, Hahn AB, Germany (F-100, F-4)
- 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, New Mexico
12/1969-12/1970 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, SEA (F-4 – 200 combat missions)
- 1971 HQ USAF, Tactical Fighter Programs Division
- 1971-1975 Industrial College of the Armed Forces and Air Command and Staff College
- 1975 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Commander, Homestead AFB, FL (F-4)
- 31st Tactical Fighter Wing, Assistant and later Deputy Commander of Maintenance, Homestead AFB, FL
- Chief, Aircraft Systems Management Division, Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill AFB, UT
- 7/2/1981 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Vice Commander/Wing Commander, Hill AFB, Utah
- 1982 Mt. Home AFB, ID (injured during a training flight) (F-111A)
Awards & Decorations
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Oak Leaf Cluster
Rating: Command Pilot
Flight Hours: 3200+
Military & Civilian Education
- 1965 Squadron Officer’s School, Maxwell AFB, AL
- USAF Fighter Weapons School, Nellis AFB, NV
- 7/1975 National War College
- 1956 Carthage High School, TX
- 1961 BA/Mathematics, Texas Technological College
- 1975 MBA/Personnel Management, Central Michigan University