Carr P. Collins, insurance magnate and philanthropist, son of Elizabeth (Hopkins) and Vinson Allen Collins, was born at Chester, Texas, on May 12, 1892. His higher education was limited to one year at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Texas State University). In 1913 he was appointed first secretary of the Industrial Accident Board (see TEXAS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION), which had been founded as a result of legislation sponsored by his father in the Texas Senate. Thus began a long career in insurance, highlighted by his founding of Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company in 1928. The company's rapid growth resulted from a novel stock-option plan partially devised by Collins. His most famous business endeavor, however, was the 1930s coast-to-coast radio selling of Crazy Crystals, dehydrated minerals from the springs at Mineral Wells, Texas. When reconstituted with water, they supposedly acted as a laxative. Sales reputedly reached $3 million a year before the Pure Food and Drug Administration declared the product fraudulent.
A fundamentalist Baptist and Democrat, Collins made a dramatic entry into politics in 1938 when he became advisor to evangelical gubernatorial candidate W. Lee O'Daniel. As governor, O'Daniel tried to appoint Collins to the state highway commission, thus breaking the tradition of giving each major section of the state a member; the Senate voted Collins down. After a bitterly disputed race for the United States Senate in 1941, in which O'Daniel narrowly defeated Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texas Senate investigating committee questioned Collins about a large undeclared gift of radio time to O'Daniel on Collins's Mexican station, XEAW. Collins claimed that the time was paid for by O'Daniel's friends but that he could not remember the donors and had kept no records of the contributions.
In the last three or four decades of his life Collins was deeply involved in a number of manufacturing and home-building ventures. He was also instrumental in the selection of premillennialist W. A. Criswell as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas in 1944. He endowed the Texas Institute of Letters with a $1,000 annual award for the author of the best book about Texas, beginning in 1946. He helped bring Bishop College to Dallas in 1961 and also worked for better housing for Blacks. His donation of Dallas property to Baylor University in 1961 was the largest gift ever made to the university at that time, and in 1979 Collins contributed $1 million to establish the Carr P. Collins Chair of Finance at Baylor. In 1914 he married Ruth Woodall, a schoolteacher from Hallsville; they had three children. Collins died on January 17, 1980.