James Lawton Collins
|James Lawton Collins|
James Lawton Collins
December 10, 1882|
|Died||June 30, 1963(aged 80)|
|Place of Burial||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1907–1946|
World War I
World War II
Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)|
Silver Star Philippine Campaign Medal
Joseph Lawton Collins (brother)|
Michael Collins (son)
Kate Collins (granddaughter)
James Lawton Collins (December 10, 1882 – June 30, 1963) was a major general of the U.S. Army who served in World War I and World War II, and was the father of Apollo 11 astronaut Maj. Gen. Michael Collins USAF Reserve (ret.) and Brig. Gen. James Lawton Collins, Jr. (ret.).
Family and early life
Collins was born into a large Irish Catholic family in Algiers, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. His father, Jeremiah Bernard Collins, had left Ireland as a young boy to join the rest of the family in Cincinnati, Ohio. Family legend has it that he served as a drummer boy in the Civil War, and at age 16, helped to drive a herd of horses into Texas to replace the cavalry mounts that had been lost to the war. He made his way to New Orleans, where he worked for James Lawton, a grocer.
He had told his son that his first flight occurred in 1911 in the Philippines, perched on the wing of a Wright plane, with Frank Lahm flying the machine. He said they flew over a forest fire and the updraft nearly knocked him off the plane.
Jeremiah worked his way up to running the stables for the delivery wagons, and eventually married Kate Lawton, his employer's daughter. They moved across the river to Algiers, near the terminus and rail repair shops of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which employed many workers of Irish descent. There, they established a dry goods store, with a pub in the back. Jeremiah and Kate's eleven children would work there, serving beer and food to railroad men. The first-born son was named for Kate's father: James Lawton Collins.
James was not tall, about 5 ft 6 in (168 cm), but he was agile, athletic, and good with horses. Later in life, he would come to the attention of Gen. John J. Pershing for his aggressive and successful polo playing, and as an excellent judge of horses. A letter in the Library of Congress in the Pershing correspondence asks James to go to the remount station in the Shenandoah Valley to pick a new horse for the general to ride.
Collins enrolled in Tulane University, but his mother's uncle, the mayor of New Orleans, was asked by a local member of Congress if there was a bright young man who could "stay the course" at West Point. Collins, reached at Tulane, accepted the appointment.
In World War I, Collins commanded a battalion of the 1st Infantry Division's 7th Field Artillery. During World War II he commanded the Puerto Rico Department and the 5th Service Command at Columbus, Ohio.
Collins retired as a major general in 1946.
- Barnes, Bart (May 12, 2002). "James Collins Jr., 84; General, Military Historian". Los Angeles Times.
His father, Maj. Gen. James Lawton Collins, was an aide de camp to Gen. John J. Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.
- Collins, Michael (2009). Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys. Lindbergh, Charles (foreword). Cooper Square Press. ISBN 9780374531942.
- "James Lawton Collins - Major General, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery Website. Michael Robert Patterson.
- The Biographical Dictionary of World War II Generals and Flag Officers - The U.S. Armed Forces, by R. Manning Ancell with Christine M. Miller, PhD, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1996
- Portrait of James L. Collins. 1933 from the United States Military Academy Library at West Point
- James Lawton Collins at Find a Grave
- Collins 2009, p. 7.