Isaac C. (I. C.) Collins, African-American funeral home founder, deacon, and civic leader, was born to Rev. Isaac Collins, Sr., a farmer, and Lydia Collins in Texas about 1895. Collins was one of thirteen children and remained close to his siblings throughout his life. The 1910 United States census indicated that the Collins family lived in Justice Precinct 4 in Bexar County, Texas.
Collins married Lena Vaughns on April 22, 1919, in Bexar County, Texas. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Vaughns and graduated from Riverside High School in San Antonio. She continued her education at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University) and graduated with a degree in education in 1916. After the couple married, she taught for several years before leaving to help her husband in his funeral business. During this time, the couple started a family and had one son, D. C. Collins.
In 1920, at the age of twenty-six, Collins became a funeral director and mortician. He also served as a board member of the National Funeral Directors Association. Collins was later elected president of the Independent Funeral Directors Association of Texas (1960). By 1928 he had founded the Collins Funeral Home in San Antonio.
Mr. and Mrs. Collins’s social status was evident in the newspaper coverage of their thirtieth wedding anniversary. The couple held a large anniversary celebration on April 23, 1949. The San Antonio Register documented the lavish affair with a story and photographs, which featured members of the original wedding party and hostesses who assisted entertaining more than 800 registered guests at the Collins’s home, located at 602 Burnet Street.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Collins were very active in civic affairs and gave their support to multiple charitable organizations as reflected in their numerous memberships. Collins served as a deacon of New Light Baptist Church in San Antonio for many years. He was also a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, American Woodmen, Elite Lodge No. 462, Prince Hall affiliate, the Shriners, Elks of the World, the Progressive Order of Pilgrims, Lone Star Consistory, and the Knights of Pythias. He served on the board of directors for the Knights of Pythias at the time of his death. Collins was also a Thirty-third degree Mason. Mrs. Collins was active in the couple’s church and was a member of Order of the Eastern Star, Daughter Elks, Mothers Service Organization, and many more. She served as president of the Business and Professional Women’s Council from its inception in 1954 until her death in 1964.
Although they were prominent and successful members of San Antonio society, legal troubles plagued Collins throughout his life. In April 1964 the San Antonio Express reported that Collins was indicted for tax evasion by a federal grand jury in El Paso. The charges stemmed from inaccurately reporting his income for the years 1957 and 1958. His tax and legal problems continued until the criminal charges in the case were dismissed due to his mental instability as verified by two separate psychiatric hearings.
Legal issues connected to his funeral home business resulted in lawsuits from customers. In March 1949 Mrs. Lucille Richardson sued Collins for $20,000 for his refusal to release her husband’s body to her. Collins had been contacted by the widow’s in-laws to perform the funeral service, but Mrs. Richardson wanted another funeral home to handle the service. Mrs. Richardson alleged that Collins refused telephone contact and would not allow Sutton and Sutton Funeral Home to pick up her husband’s body. Initially the court awarded Mrs. Richardson $750 in damages and Collins appealed the decision. Collins lost the appeal and had to pay Mrs. Richardson $5,000 in her damages suit in December 1949. In another lawsuit, filed in July 1964, Collins was sued for $50,000 by Clifton Nixon for moving Nixon’s mother’s remains without his permission or knowledge. The coffin containing Nixon’s mother, Mrs. Sally Fields, was dug up and moved from her original burial plot to cheaper and less desirable plot. The jury found Collins guilty and awarded Nixon $2,000 for damages.
Collins passed away after a long illness on December 13, 1968, in San Antonio. He was buried in Eastview Cemetery in San Antonio, and burial arrangements were under the direction of Collins and Bryant Mortuary, which he co-owned. Legal controversy followed Collins even after his death when his will was contested by his children and ruled invalid. The will, drawn on February 9, 1967, excluded Collin’s children and divided the bulk of his estate among his four surviving sisters, naming Mrs. Willie Mae Duncan as administrator of his estate. The court ruled in favor of Collin’s children stating that Collins was not mentally competent to execute the will.