By Stephen D. Bowling
In July 1969, the world celebrated the Apollo 11 Mission to put the first men on the moon. Millions around the world witnessed the event live on television. Many around Jackson watched the broadcast, but a sad local event overshadowed the hearts of our community due to the loss of a personal friend.
On July 17, 1969, David G. Collier became the third Editor of The Jackson Times to die suddenly while at the helm of Breathitt County’s only newspaper. Collier had served as Editor for more than 20 years and led The Jackson Times through many of Jackson’s boom years following World War II. He was also a writer and Assistant Editor of The Beattyville Enterprise.
According to the July 24 edition of The Jackson Times, Collier had been ill for some time but did not tell his family or stop working. He worked on July 16 and went home. His health worsened, and he died at his home on River Street just before 5:00 p.m. Dr. Price Sewell, Jr., Collier’s attending physician, attributed Collier’s death to uremia.
Close friends and family members had known for some time that Collier’s health had continued to deteriorate following the sudden death of his wife, Mildred, a year earlier.
Several weeks earlier, Collier had been hospitalized but had been released. He had been in poor health for many years. On Wednesday, he did something quite unusual; David Collier stayed home from work, which he rarely did despite his health. He died the following day.
Born February 16, 1920, Collier was a well-known and liked citizen of Jackson. He served as Editor of The Jackson Times for nearly twenty years and as Clerk for the City of Jackson for eighteen years. He was a Mason, a member of the Methodist Church, and a veteran of the United States Air Force during World War II.
“Collier was a talented man, witty and brilliant in his writing, and of invaluable aid as a member of our staff,” Times Publisher Louise B. Hatmaker.
He was survived by his mother, R. A. Collier, and three children, David A. Collier, Janet Collier, and Donald Collier.
There was no memorial service and no funeral for David Collier. That was his request. He asked that no flowers or cards be sent. He told friends that he saw the pain and misery in the faces of those who attended his wife’s funeral in Jun 1968 and did not want his friends to mourn him. He wrote in an editorial that the funeral practices of the day were “too ritualistic and even almost pagan in the torture they cause those left to mourn.” In fact, he had other plans.
One year before he passed, Collier had signed to donate his body to medical research at the University of Kentucky. Instead of a funeral filled with memorial statements and eulogies, The Jackson Times, with the help of many of his friends, chose to honor Dave by honoring him with ink. A special editorial page of personal letters from Jackson residents and a front-page story were more recognition Dave would have wanted.
We pause to remember a beloved community member more than 50 years ago. We pay special tribute to his service to the community by once again memorializing him in writing. His efforts to report the news of Breathitt County and the historical records his printed pages created cannot be appreciated enough.
Thank You, Dave, for your service to Jackson.
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© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling
Good article. So many people of note in Marcum cemetery.
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How I hung on every word of your post, Stephen. I started working for The Jackson Times in 1967, in an after-school job. I was 15, and Dave always made me feel so warmly welcome there. In fact, when I arrived each afternoon he’d tickle me pink by greeting me with, “There’s that Gayle, coming to help us like a refreshing afternoon breeze…!” and giving me a wonderful smile. I quickly grew to love him dearly, and I learned a lot from him. How kind he was, and what gifts he had in writing, editing, and communicating with people.
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