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Who is Sam Collins III?

by Ruth Ann Ruiz
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By Ruth Ann Ruiz

The Post Newspaper Features Editor

“I’m a 70’s child, I played on the Red Raiders football team in Hitchcock,” said Sam Collins.

Sam Collins III is an understated man of action.  He devoted a good portion of his adult life to champion for Juneteenth as a national holiday. In June of 2021, his and the work of many others was finally realized.  

 “Juneteenth celebrates the day our county came to a more perfect place. We became a more perfect union,” said Collins. 

Collins doesn’t really want to take credit for his efforts. “I’m just a pen, an instrument to be used by our creator,” explained Collins. 

The end results are his focus. 

Teaming with Sue Johnson of the Nia Cultural Center in Galveston he and others have established the Juneteenth Legacy Project. 

The Nia Cultural center on the Strand serves as headquarters for the project. Entering the center, it is difficult to choose where to focus your attention as the artwork and instillations compel a viewer to give their attention to each piece. Some of the work is intended to convey political messages while other pieces are simply created for the pure enjoyment of the viewer.

Evenings and weekends the center is a gathering place with entertaining engagements including theatrical shows, live music, artists, art auctions and a variety of guest speakers. 

Sam wandered back down his personal memory roadway sharing more from his childhood.  “I remember my dad had a reel-to-reel music system,” he said. His childhood home vibrated with the soothing melodies of the Temptations, and numerous other soul musicians of the time.

“Then my dad got on a country kick for a while and well, he who owns the truck owns the radio. But I wasn’t really into country,” Sam shared. Just as soon as the 70’s were in his rearview mirror, Sam became a teenager of the 80’s. He began tuning into his musical choice, hip hop. 

Sam remembers bountiful family gatherings in his front yard or in his extended family’s front yards. “We had birthday parties, fish fries, lots of gatherings. Everyone cooked something, and Great Grandma always baked cakes and other sweets for our family events,” shared Collins. 

Every year, his family attended two family reunions, one from his father’s side and the other from his mother’s family.“Grandpa taught me how to take the kinks out of my bicycle chain,” said Collins. 

Family, period, was a family value in Collins’ childhood. “They were all part of my success,” he said.

Attending college was inevitable and his choice was: “Texas A&M, the greatest university in the state of Texas!” declared Collins. He majored in accounting and business administration. 

Age 15 brought tragedy to Sam’s life as his mother took her journey from earth to find her eternal resting place. Cancer ended her life, and it took Sam several years to come to terms with the loss of his mother. She had been a U.S. Marine, a teacher, a coach, and a steadfast example for living a life with honor. 

“My mother was no nonsense, she was amazing, Mom graduated high school at 17 and finished college at age 20. She was harder on me than any of my other teachers, I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I do now,” shared Collins. 

“I was angry with God for a long time. As I grew spiritually, that allowed for healing from mom’s passing and I overcame my anger,” said Collins. 

Without his mom to continue with her maternal love, he leaned on extended family.

Though his mom was a pillar of strength, his father was his superhero. 

“I wasn’t looking for Santa Claus, I was looking for Sama Claus. My dad, Sam Collins II, is 72 and he still gets in his car and drives across the country by himself for family reunions.” Collins’ smile grows immense as he describes the joy his father continues to bring to his life. 

He married his sixth-grade crush. “We didn’t start dating till we were in our 20’s,” shared Sam. Sam has one child age 13. 

Beyond his family and his career, Collins has a passion, a drive, a commitment that keeps him going and he won’t stop; no matter what obstacles are placed in his way, he is determined to bring to light the history of Black Americans, particularly those from the Gulf Coast of Texas. 

“Teaching the history is about making sure we don’t erase the memories that will teach us not to make the same mistakes,” explained Collins.

Collins is working to have a street in Galveston named after John Rufus Gibson, who served as the second principal at Central High School. Gibson’s principalship lasted 48 years.

His drive is leading him to pursue a program that would place hand cast bells throughout Galveston so that all who wish can ring the bell. The deep melodic sound as the clapper meets with the striking point will serve to remind the listeners of our history and the lives of slaves along with the value of freedom for everyone. 

Though Collins is the president of the Juneteenth Legacy Project and has been instrumental in bringing national attention to Galveston’s as the birthplace of Juneteenth, you would hardly know his significance as you speak with him.  Rather than demanding attention for himself, Collins steadfastly shines light on portions of history that have been ignored. 

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