The Civic Life of Nathaniel Colley

Nathaniel Colley, affectionately known by friends and colleagues as “Nat,” devoted himself to the improvement of his community. As one of Sacramento’s earliest African American lawyers, Colley spent 50 years helping to shape the course of social reform across Sacramento, California, and the nation.

A brilliant trial attorney, Nathaniel managed a successful Sacramento law firm, paving the way for groundbreaking anti-discrimination lawsuits and arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Together with his wife, Jerlean, Nathaniel raised five children and led numerous civic organizations. His legacy lives on in this collection, comprised of awards and accolades, photographs, and the insightful speeches, letters, and articles for which Nathaniel Colley was renowned. 

Nathaniel Colley led an intentional life. Rooted in family and a sense of right and wrong, Colley melded the personal and private for the sake of civil service. Colley was a civic-minded man who recognized moments ripe for change. For him, the time was always now.


Written by Heather L. Downey; designed by Dylan McDonald and Heather L. Downey.