This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death of B.T. Collins, a long-time politician and public servant from the state of California. His friends and supporters are still talking about his achievements and telling stories about their encounters with the funny and outspoken man they considered a hero. The following are some of the highlights of his career.
Despite being eligible for a draft deferral as a college student, Collins enlisted in the army as soon as the war in Vietnam began. He went on to serve as a captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces. He was on his second tour of duty when he was hit by a grenade and lost both his right arm and his right leg. After spending nearly two years in military hospitals, he became a staunch advocate for veterans and a willing counselor to other amputees.
Work For The Governor
Even though Governor Jerry Brown was a liberal, he appointed Collins, a conservative Republican, to direct the California Conservation Corps. He went on to replace Gray Davis as Brown’s chief of staff and served in that capacity until 1983. He served the governor’s office years later when Governor Pete Wilson named him director of the California Youth Authority.
It was Governor Wilson who pushed Collins to run for the State Assembly when Tim Leslie’s seat became vacant. He won that seat in a special election in 1992, and won it again the following year. Unfortunately, he did not have long to serve in the state legislature because he died of a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 52.
Service To Others
Collins believed in helping others and giving back to his community and fellow veterans. When he lost his limbs in the war, he received many pints of donated blood. Not only did he become a frequent donor at the Sacramento Blood Bank, but he also became its director. Another cause he championed was that of battered women, and he worked to raise funds for WEAVE, a local organization that provided a shelter and other support services for victims of domestic violence.
Collins’s funeral was attended by more than 5,000 mourners, including two former California governors. His friends fondly remember his sense of humor, his blunt honesty, and his unmatched integrity.