DAVE COLLINS “THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION”
David A. Collins, longtime Masten District Councilman and “people’s champion,” made his transition in Erie County Medical Center on January 25 after a brief illness. He was 79. Funeral services were held Saturday, Frebruay 3 at St. Luke AME Zion Church. In a Buffalo News article last week, former Council President George K. Arthur credited Mr. Collins with being a moving force, along with Hank Nowak, with the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Sports Pavilion. Mr. Nowak, after learning of his death, remarked, “Dave was a fair, dedicated and brave man with a passion for making life better for all of us.” Former Ellicott District Council-member James Pitts had high praise for Collins, who he said possessed “the spirit, the intelligence, the nerve, the courage” to do the right thing during his 18 years on the Council.
He served on Common Council from 1978 to 1996. During his tenure, he served as President Pro-Tempore and chairperson of the Common Council’s Finance Committee. Dave was also responsible for spurring the re-building of Masten District. He’s credited with the reconstruction of the War Memorial Stadium, massive new home construction, the preservation of the “Apollo Theater,” reconstruction of major thoroughfares, home improvement programs, youth programs, senior citizen programs and several major economic development projects in the City of Buffalo. Described as a community activist his whole life, through his leadership involvement with the NAACP, he was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers. -From Mississippi to Buffalo- David A. Collins was born on February 20, 1938 in Prentiss, Mississippi to David and Georgia (Sutton) Collins.
He graduated from Prentiss Normal Industrial Institute High School and attended Alcorn A & M College in Lorman, Mississippi. Moved to Buffalo, N.Y in 1956, where he met his wife, Jean D. Collins and was married for 57 years. He has two daughters (Senora Boddie and Dr. Michelle D. Collins-Jiggetts) and 6 grandchildren. He was especially close to his youngest grandchild, Courtney S. Jiggetts. David attended Canisius College part-time in 1966 and graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 1971. He attended the Graduate School of Social Policy, completing 45 hours of required course work.
Dave was employed by the General Motors Corporation in 1961, where he became Treasurer of over 3,000 members of U.A.W. Local# 1173. He later joined the Opportunities Development Corporation (Project JET), where he located employment and training opportunities for Buffalo’s structurally unemployed residents. In 1967, Mr. Collins joined the A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the Workers’ Defense League of New York City and established the Buffalo Chapter of the Joint Apprenticeship Program, Inc. He successfully trained young African-Americans to compete in the local Building Trade Union Apprenticeship Programs. He later expanded this program to include Project JUSTICE. During the 1960’s, he became a civil rights activist with the NAACP.
He organized protest movements in Buffalo, New York State and across the country in the fight for equality, human rights and dignity for minorities. In 1971, David was appointed Executive Director of the Employment Information Center (EIC)- a Model Cities Program, where he developed employment opportunities throughout Western New York. He served as the General Manager of the Afro-American Builders Association, and later formed his own construction company, Black & White Development Company. He served as Executive Director and as a Gransmanship writer for the Community Action Organization’s (CAO), developing funding streams for programs such as the Home Weatherization Program, and the Senior Companion Program. Over the years, David has received over 200 plagues, awards and certificates.
He was a member of Durham Memorial A.M. E. Zion Church for over 55 years. He held a life membership in the NAACP, was a member of numerous local organizations. During the last 20 years, he was a private consultant for the Washington, DC based A. Philip Randolph Institute, CAO and other private and public agencies. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, 6 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, one sister (Sherell McNair), one step son (Garvie Freeman) and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins. He was preceded in death by two brothers and one sister (George, Clyde, and Shirley Maude Collins).