Frank "Tick" Coleman, 97, of South Philadelphia, a trustee emeritus of Lincoln University, a retired school counselor, an Eagle Scout, and a star athlete, died of heart failure Thursday at Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia.
Mr. Coleman, Central High School's first black quarterback, led the football team to Public League titles in 1929 and 1930.
He was quarterback and football team captain at Lincoln, the historically black college in Chester County, where he also managed the basketball team, was on the wrestling team, was class president, and was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1935.
In 1981, after a career as counselor in the Philadelphia School District, he returned to Lincoln to be director of alumni relations for seven years. For more than 10 years he was alumni representative on Lincoln's board of trustees. In 1984, Lincoln awarded Mr. Coleman an honorary doctorate.
"We call him Mr. Lincoln," Ivory Nelson, the school's president, said last year.
Lincoln dropped its football program in 1960. Years later, Mr. Coleman reminisced to a reporter about his gridiron days in the 1930s. He recalled that distinguished graduates such as Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes would return for homecoming and a big parade.
"It was a good show, flatbed trucks all decorated, the band playing," Mr. Coleman said. Without football, he said, "homecoming is a little sad."
When Lincoln trustees voted to reinstate football and the marching band in 2006, Mr. Coleman donated $1,000 to the program. He was in the stands in August when Lincoln played its first game in 48 years, defeating George Mason University, 34-7.
"This is like an opening night for a show on Broadway," he told an Inquirer reporter. "I have a whole lot of pride. Just seeing it, this is fantastic."
Mr. Coleman had made it to the stadium though he was recovering from his second leg amputation and had just had a pacemaker implanted, his daughter Evelyn White said.
"He gave his heart and soul to Lincoln," she said. "He was determined to live to see that game."
Mr. Coleman grew up in South Philadelphia, where his friends named him Tick because, they said, he could do things in a few ticks of the clock. He learned to swim and play sports at the Christian Street YMCA, and later coached boxing there.
While a freshman at Central, Mr. Coleman became one of only three black Eagle Scouts in the country, and he often spoke to boys and their parents about the benefits of scouting.
"If we can get young men into scouting, it might help them get off the streets with these guns," he said at a scouting open house in 2006.
Mr. Coleman earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Work. He was a social worker and probation officer in Philadelphia before becoming a counselor with the school district in 1949.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Coleman is survived by another daughter, Sarah Montgomery; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. His wife of 29 years, Frances Olivis Coleman, died in 1961.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. today at Union Baptist Church, 1910 Fitzwater St., where Mr. Coleman was a deacon. Friends may call after 9. Burial will be in Eden Cemetery, Collingdale.