Don L. Collins, the architect of Collins Bus in the early 1970s, will be laid to rest this Friday in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, after passing away July 29 at home in Florida. He was 83.
Collins was born to Rev. B.B. and Viola Adams Collins on Jan. 24, 1931 in Seminole, Oklahoma. At age 16, he attended the Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas and became a pastor. He continued ministering in other areas throughout his life.
Collins became an entrepreneur and inventor. Now a subsidiary of Allied Specialty Vehicles, Collins Industries, Inc. was born from its namesake in 1971 to become the first manufacturer of small Type-A school buses, which weigh less than 10,000 pounds GVWR, in response to federal law requiring the transportation of students with disabilities. Collins built the first wheelchair-lift school bus for the industry in the mid 1970s. During that decade Collins Industries grew before a fire in April 1979 burned the company's 60,000-square-foot plant to the ground. But Collins and his son, Donald L. Collins, Jr., rebuilt with the help of $3.5 million in bond revenue raised by the taxpayers of Hutchinson, Kansas, where the company remains to this day.
The company fully recovered by 1983 with $10 million in annual sales and issued a stock IPO, which helped it further expand and become a national player. President Jimmy Carter and then President Ronald Reagan honored Collins in the White House Rose Garden for his contributions to small business. In addition to school buses, Collins Industries manufactured ambulances, fire trucks, hearses, limousines, transit buses, leisure vans and terminal trucks that helped transform the shipping industry from bulk to containerization. The company purchased Mid Bus in 1998 and Corbeil Bus Corporation in 2007. American Industrial Partners purchased Collins Industries in 2010 and combined the company with Fleetwood Enterprises. E-One, and Halcore Group to form Allied Specialty Vehicles.
Collins served on various boards of directors, and later he was a guest lecturer for the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. In 2000, he published "Common Sense Wisdom," a collection of thoughts and quotes about life. He also served on the board of Good Life Broadcasting, a Christian television network in Orlando, Florida.
An avid antique car enthusiast, he restored numerous antique cars, his latest a 1928 Model A Roadster.
Don Collins is survived by wife Sharon; five children, including Don, Jr. (Carol), Ron (Joyce), Bonnie (David) Fricke, Paul and Darraugh; three stepchildren; 10 grandchildren; 10 great grandchildren; sisters Nadine Todd and Dorothy (Carl) Martindale; and one cousin, Bill (Iris) Holland.
Memories and stories about Don can be left for the family at www.hayhurstfh.com.