By MJ Brickey
On Sunday, co-founder of Pride In McAlester and area philanthropist James T. “J.T.” Collier died at 72 at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
“J.T. (Collier) was a great friend to both myself and the city of McAlester,” former Mayor Kevin Priddle said Tuesday afternoon. “He was actively involved in the community and will be greatly missed.”
Priddle has been named as honorary pallbearer for J.T. Collier’s gaveside services set Thursday at 10 a.m. at Oak Hill Cemetery in McAlester.
“We were friends in school,” said Ward 1 McAlester Councilman Weldon Smith said. “We’ve been friends for over 60 years.”
Smith said Collier left the area after he graduated, but when he moved back, Smith made contact with Collier to get his help with starting Pride In McAlester.
Smith said in the first year and a half, Collier took Pride In McAlester and made it a 40-plus hour-a-week job.
Smith said Collier worked on many local improvement projects such as the OKLA Theatre restoration and served on boards such as the McAlester Board of Ethics and the McAlester Regional Health Center Board of Directors.
“He never forgot his home town,” Smith said. “And always looked for ways to improve it.”
Collier was also an active member of the Friends of the Library with the McAlester Public Library, assisting with the ongoing relocation and building project.
Collier graduated from McAlester High School in 1957 and served as an officer in the United States Air Force as a navigator from 1961 to 1962. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1966 with a master of degree and worked as an architect.
He co-owned and operated Brooks-Collier from 1976 to 1995 and then owned and operated James T. Collier Associates from 1996 to 1998, all in Houston, Texas.
“It was because of J.T. Collier’s enthusiasm I became involved with Pride In McAlester,” friend and long-time PIM member Gwenn Tittsworth said. “He didn’t take no for an answer.”
Titsworth said he would take the things people would say were impossible and make them possible.
“For about two years, I worked with him on a daily basis,” Titsworth said about working with Collier at PIM. “He was a man who got things done.”
Former president of PIM and friend Mark Wilket said he met Collier when Collier came back to McAlester after retiring and saw the town in dispair.
“He and Smith came to Triad (Hazardous Waste Transportation Company) and inspired us to help and do the things we have done,” Wilket said. “Not only did he never take no for an answer, but no project was too big or too small.”
“He was the first president of PIM,” Wilket said of his experience with Collier and PIM. “And I had some big shoes to fill when he left.”