I was one of the lucky student journalists from the University of North Alabama that went to Montgomery to watch Governor Kay Ivey give her State of the State Address last month.
I talked to many representatives and senators about prison reform, abortion, medical marijuana and other topics. As I was waiting to meet with Representative Terri Collins, I met her husband, Tom Collins. He saw the UNA students wandering around her office trying to find her and said, “Y’all look lost. Who ya looking for?”
I answered, telling him that we were here to see Representative Collins and he said, “Oh, I’m her husband. She’s in a meeting right now. I’m not sure when she’ll be back, but if you want to wait in here with me, that’s just fine.”
Mr. Collins was the first person that day who asked us questions. He wanted to know how our day was going, and he was not just pretending to be interested. His interest in us was genuine. He asked us our names, how old we were and where home was.
He spoke about what it was like being the husband of a representative and how his wife got to where she is today.
“Terri has always had a job where she interacted with people,” Mr. Collins said. “And one day someone came up to her talking about local government and they both agreed that someone should run for office who knew their people and understood them. Then the person talking to her told her she should run. And then that became everything.”
Some men in his position may feel emasculated, but Tom said he was proud to be a “trophy husband.” He was truly proud his wife’s accomplishments because they lived as a team. If she succeeded, so did he.
After meeting Tom and Terri Collins, I was interested about their lives together. I found out that Mr. Collins used to sing with his church. I later found out that he quit singing in public because he felt like he was no longer singing for the Lord and he felt that if he were to use his talent it should be for that. It takes a certain person to be able to quit doing something they love because they feel it is getting away from them.
I was also able to talk to the Collins’ about their family. They discussed their love and admiration for their children and grandchildren. Later in our conversation I found out they had been to the town I grew up in, Mentone, Ala. They went there to go to the Wildflower Cafe because Representative Collins had gone to school with the owner. I went to school with the owner’s daughter all throughout elementary and high school. Three people who had nothing in common discovered through an interview about politics that we all had a common friend. I guess it is a small world after all…
After the trip to Montgomery, I was told that Mr. Collins passed away.
To first meet someone, get to know them and their family and then lose them so soon after was an odd experience. It was a feeling of loss and regret. At the same time, I reminded myself that I barely knew these people and had no reason to feel like this.
Then, I thought about how welcoming Mr. Collins was to me and the group of UNA students out of their comfort zone in a setting full of powerful people. He showed kindness to people he did not know, welcomed us and answered some silly questions that we probably should have known the answer to.
It takes a special person to make strangers feel welcome and leave the room making them feel as if they had made a new friend.
Mr. Collins is survived by his wife, Representative Terri Collins, his three children and two grandchildren. I will never forget how kind he was to some random college students. So thank you, Mr. Collins.