Collins honored for lifetime of service

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2005

GETAWAY- Ten years ago, former state Sen. Oakley Collins died at the age of 82, but an event Saturday proved though gone, Collins is definitely not forgotten.

A couple hundred people, including Collins' sons, grandsons and brothers gathered to dedicate a plaque and wall of mementos and photographs in his honor at Collins Career Center, the school that is named for the senator.

In his opening remarks, Collins Career Center Superintendent Steve Dodgion mused that for many, the honor was a long time in coming.

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"As we put this wall together yesterday, I heard some of the comments the students were making as they walked by," he said. "One was a young man who looked at the photographs and said 'It's about time you did this for that fellow.'"

But he said the tribute is fitting for a man who is regarded even on a state level as the father of Ohio vocational education because of his tireless work to gain support for a cause he considered of paramount importance to the future of the state.

In his remarks during the ceremony, Collins' son, Ironton Municipal Court Judge O. Clark Collins Jr., said his father would have enjoyed the tribute to him, because it was an expression of friendship and respect from friends and neighbors, and because it was centered on his dad's love for education.

"Even after 10 years this is still emotional for me," Clark Collins said. "Dad would have been so proud to see you all here today. His first allegiance was to education and it is an honor to have a school named for him. … He insisted our children have equal educational opportunities as those through the state of Ohio."

Collins shared numerous memories of his father's life, political career and his enthusiasm for life. There were stories of his relentless campaigning, his work to cut through red tape to help neighbors and stories of Collins' larger-than-life personality, one who shook hands with vigor, and once even stopped traffic in Gallipolis so he could shake hands with passersby - in both lanes of traffic.

"Toward the end of his career I would drive him around when he was campaigning. He was relentless. … He was a whirlwind going through his district," Clark Collins said. "Even the Ohio State Patrol got to know us as we flew by, Dad giving them a friendly wave as we traveled at mach 1 speed."

Mark Collins said the stories of his father, though humorous, were a true reflection of a man who loved people and was loved by people.

"You really had to know him. This was no exaggeration, no tall tales, the man did this stuff," he said. "This was so touching."