A fifth generation of Coleman dairymen – the sons of W.C. “Buddy” Coleman – has presented UALR a gift of 10 acres of what was part of the oldest dairy farm west of the Mississippi to make possible a recreation and sports complex and make Little Rock eligible to host sanctioned track and field events.
Walt, Bob, Charlie, and Cherb Coleman – owners of Coleman Family LLC – made the land transfer to UALR as part of the university’s “It’s Time for UALR” comprehensive campaign. They are great- great-grandsons of Coleman founder Eleithet B. Coleman who began selling milk from a wagon in Little Rock during the administration of Abraham Lincoln.
The gift – appraised at $115,000 – will give UALR the flexibility to design planned sports fields for track and field, soccer, and intramural activities. UALR already owns a piece of land on the south side of Asher Avenue that once housed a drive-in theater. The Coleman gift — the site of the Coleman Dairy silo near Asher and University avenues — will allow the university to more efficiently orient planned playing fields.
“Little Rock is the largest city in the country without an all-weather, all-purpose track,” said Chris Peterson, director of UALR’s Athletics. “The city has been unable to host any kind of a track meet in decades. That has affected the opportunity of hundreds of young people who participate in track and field.”
The Coleman land gift will fill that need, said Bob Denman, UALR’s executive director of development.
The UALR gift follows a long line of Coleman family interest in sports activity. Buddy Coleman, whose sons recently financed a baseball field for Little Rock Central High School in his honor, was a long-time Southwest Conference football official. He and his son Walt – now a National Football League official – were the first ever father-son team to officiate an NCAA football game.
The Coleman land parcel is part of the family’s original 200 acre farm between Coleman and Fourche creeks. The Coleman farm was the oldest dairy west of the Mississippi River, where they raised milk cows since the Civil War. In 1862, Eleilthet Coleman became the first farmer to deliver milk in Little Rock, selling quart-size ladles of fresh milk from his horse-drawn wagon to customers who brought him their own tin milk cans. His son, Fred, joined the business in 1877, Fred’s son W.C “Pops” in 1918, and Pop’s son Boots in 1938.
Boots expanded the family business into processing the milk. In 1958, his brother W.C. “Buddy” Coleman, joined the business — about the time television came to Little Rock, and Coleman Dairy recognized the power of television advertising.
When Little Rock native Gail Davis starred in the national television program, “Annie Oakley Show,” Coleman Dairy sponsored it. Boots Coleman helped host the “Southwest Conference Roundup” sports program.
Buddy Coleman took the helm after his brother’s tragic death in 1971 and, like generations before him, brought his sons into the business.
Today, the Coleman operation is part of a farm-owned co-operative with a number of processing plants throughout the central U.S. providing fresh, high-quality dairy products. Coleman products serve most of Arkansas and eight southeastern states.