Former First Lady of Florida Collins dies at 98

The Associated Press has reported that Former First Lady of Florida Mary Call Darby Collins has died after a long illness. She was 98. Collins was the widow of Gov. LeRoy Collins, who served from 1955 to 1961, and great granddaughter of Richard Keith Call, who served two terms as Florida’s territorial governor in the 1830s and 1840s. She died Sunday.

Collins lived in a house next to the governor’s mansion that Call built in the 1820s. She was active in historic preservation projects.

Gov. Charlie Crist said, “She offered both support and advice during some of the most turbulent times in our state’s history. Not only was she the descendant of prominent Floridians, she became a community leader herself, both before and after she became so well known as Florida’s First Lady.” — Associated Press

Several years ago while I was working on the campaign of Admiral LeRoy Collins, the admiral asked me to go to Tallahassee with him. The reason? He told me he wanted me to meet his mother. At the time, I thought this was a little odd, and the trip to Tallahassee required that I give up a whole Sunday with my family to go meet the elderly mother of Admiral Collins.

As soon as I arrived at Mrs. Collins’ home (it’s really more of an estate located right next to the Florida Governor’s mansion), I was pleased I had made the trip. At 95 years old I found her to be charming, enlightening, entertaining, and extremely witty.

The loss of Mrs. Collins won’t be felt by many outside of her family and friends. But her passing is a tremendous loss to the people of Florida for the history she lived and represented, and the service and good deeds she and her family have long provided to our state.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Collins family.

Chris Ingram

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