Walter Collins died on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 , in Austin after a brief illness, less than three weeks before his 99th birthday. He was born in Cooks Point, Texas, on February 2, 1905, to Clifton C. and Sallie Jones Collins. The family soon moved to nearby Caldwell where Walter lived until completing high school in 1923. He studied engineering at the University of Texas for three years, until June 1926, when he left to begin working for Humble Oil and Refining Company in San Angelo. He married Margaret Coffin on August 28, 1926. His career with the Humble Company took him to McCamey (1927-1935), Midland (1935-1946), and New Orleans (1946-1947) as he advanced from draftsman to scout to landman. Walter was scouting the Texon B-1 in the Big Lake Field in Reagan County on the night of December 4, 1928, when it blew in the Ellenberger discovery. When Humble moved its West Texas Operations to Midland in 1935, Walter arranged for the company’s lease of office space in the nearly empty Petroleum Building and supervised the moving of employee’s houses from the company camp in McCamey to private lots in Midland. After being transferred to New Orleans in 1946, Walter left the Humble Company in 1947 and returned to Midland as an independent and began a four-decade business association with Paul L. Davis Sr. His wife of 67 years, Margaret, preceded him in death in 1993. Walter is survived by his sister, Loraine C. Bowers, of Caldwell; son, Michael, daughter-in-law, Karen; grandson, Charles and wife, Ruth Anne; granddaughter, Melinda Collins De La Isla; and five great-grandchildren: Anne, Elizabeth, and Eileen Collins and Mario and Karina de la Isla, all of Austin. His nephew, Richard Bowers of Caldwell; and nieces, Sariann Symank of St. Francisville, Louisiana, and Bonnie Davis of Wichita Falls, Texas, also survive him. His life epitomized the American Dream of the 20th century as he began working summers in high school to afford to go to college, and worked evenings and summers while at the University. He slept on a park bench on the grounds of the State Capitol with $2.00 in his pocket when he returned to college for the fall term of 1924 until he could find work to pay for room and board. His job with Humble carried him through the depression with enough resources to begin buying shares of Humble stock, an investment that partially survived the stock market crash of 1929. These experiences made him the resourceful, frugal, and successful businessman who rode the ups and downs of the oil and gas economy of Texas for more than 77 years. He relocated to Austin in 1991 to be closer to his family and diversify into real estate. He remained active in oil and gas as well as stocks and real estate until late December 2003. Walter was a long-standing member of the Permian Basin Petroleum Pioneers Association. From his earliest boyhood, Walter loved to hunt and fish. Among his fondest memories were fishing trips to Colorado with family and friends. He had remarkable recall and was a gifted story teller. The family will long treasure recordings and transcripts of his recollections about his youth, college experiences, and early days in the west Texas oil fields. Graveside services will be 2:00 p.m., Saturday, January 17, at the Williams-Buck Cemetery on County Road 202 in Williamson County, Texas, with reception to follow at the nearby Collins family farm house. Memorial gifts may be made to the Permian Basin Petroleum Pioneers Association, c/o Damon Kennedy, Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, 1500 West Interstate 20, Midland, Texas, 79701 (ph. 432 683 4403). Arrangements by Harrell Funeral Home , 4435 Frontier Trail, Austin, TX 78745 512-443-1366.
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