The Rev. G. Mansfield Collins made a huge footprint during his nearly 102 years of life. His impact was clearly apparent as hundreds filled the sanctuary of Bryant Temple AME Church to salute Collins’ legacy.
During an uplifting memorial service on Oct. 10, Collins’ enduring love for God, family and community was celebrated through music, reflections and presentations. His children, fellow clergy and elected officials shared memories that provided insight into the retired pastor’s deep faith, sterling character and charming personality.
Speaking on behalf of the AME Church, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of First AME Church described Collins as “towering figure and a giant of a man” who successfully merged three congregations in one, which resulted in the founding of Bryant Temple AME.
“G. Mansfield Collins made impressions wherever he went. He was towering physically, but he also resonated from his lower diaphragm – a voice that caters to no one else could match. I really grew to love him and respect him for many years, “ said Boyd.
Xernona Clayton Brady, a longtime friend of Collins, evoked laughter recounting his response to her question, “How long do you think you’ll live?” He replied, “I’ll live until I die.”
Comparing Collins’ life to “the three Cs,” Clayton Brady said, “The three things most important to him were his Christian duty, his children and his community.” She went on to become Collins’ choir director when he founded his first church and collaborated with him to raise money for the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s.
“He was serious about fighting for equality and justice and we were partners,” she recalled as she recounted the close relationship between Collins and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. “Nobody had fun as much as [those two]. They loved each other.”
The Rev. Clyde Oden, who served as Bryant Temple pastor from 2002 to 2015, said that the Rev. Collins instructed him deliver his eulogy. “Many years ago, Rev. Collins told me I was going to be on this program. He said, ‘I want you to preach this service.’ That was nearly 15 years ago,” Oden said. “This was a man of love – for his family, community and humanity.”
Collins demonstrated his commitment to others throughout his long life. A native of Pueblo, Colorado, he was born Sept. 27, 1920 to the Rev. H. Mansfield Collins and Mrs. Amelia Davis Collins. In 1935, his father was appointed pastor of First AME Church, then located at 8th and Towne in Los Angeles.
Enrolling at Polytechnic High School, Collins attended classes with Tom Bradley – who became L.A. mayor in 1973. After graduating in 1936, he attended USC and was later drafted into the military where he served as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
His introduction to activism occurred while at Tuskegee when Collins and other Black officers tried to integrate an all-White officer’s club, which resulted in the arrest of the Black officers. Proudly declaring himself “an agitator,” he emphasized civil rights for all during the rest of his life.
Also, Collins was a noted vocalist and actor with small roles in “Mighty Joe Young,” “Imitation of Life” and “Porgy and Bess.” In 1961, he was a founding member of the Western Christian Leadership Conference, the west coast branch of SCLC. Two years later, he was a principal organizer of the Los Angeles Freedom Rally with Dr. King as the keynote speaker. Nearly 40,000 people attended including actors Sammy Davis Jr., Paul Newman, and Dorothy Dandridge.
The organizer of All Saints Community Church in Los Angeles, Collins later became an AME itinerant elder and headed parishes in Washington, California and Missouri. After retiring in 1995, he joined his daughter, Lisa Collins, in launching L.A. Focus Newspaper.
The Rev. Collins passed away on Sept. 23. Cherishing his memory are sons, Mansfield, Timothy C. and Timothy Mansfield; daughters, Alis (Lisa) and Kasandra; daughter-in-law, Melba Collins; and several grandchildren, relatives and friends.