John W. Collins Jr., 68, a long-time criminal defense attorney in Arcadia, Florida, died Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, after a brief battle with cancer.
He was born in Birmingham, Alabama.
John W. Collins Jr. moved with his family in the early 1960s to Arcadia, where his father operated a small chain of retail stores. After graduating from DeSoto High School, he put himself through Manatee Junior College and the University of South Florida. While raising a family in Fort Myers in the 1980s, he worked for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and later for the Lee County probation office. In 1986, he attended law school at Nova University, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1990.
After a stint as an Assistant State Attorney (ASA) in Lee County, John returned to Arcadia to serve as ASA in DeSoto County, a post he held until 1996 when he went into private practice first in Punta Gorda, Florida, and later Arcadia, as a criminal defense attorney.
“All of us in the legal community are shocked and saddened,” said Jim Parker, a retired circuit judge for DeSoto County. “He was a personal and professional friend of the court.”
“I worked with John for over 20 years,” said Don Hall, a county and now circuit judge in DeSoto. “Always prepared, he was staunch advocate in the courtroom. But once you stepped outside those doors, he became John again. One thing that distinguished him as a lawyer was his ability to see the law not just as abstract principles, but to see what it meant to peoples’ lives. He helped us to keep that in mind.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever known another lawyer with a higher regard for the Constitution than John,” said E.E. “Bucky” Waldron, an Arcadia attorney who went to high school with Collins in the 1960s. “He worked very hard for his clients. But even outside of his profession, some of us are very fortunate to have counted him as a friend for over 50 years.”
The judges’ office learned to treasure John’s sense of humor, often on display at impromptu birthday parties for Parker and Collins. “We’d usually give each other political gag gifts,” said Parker. “We could discuss things and disagree without being disagreeable. It’s hard to lose a good friend like John, but I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers forever. Rest in peace, my friend.”
John was an accomplished amateur musician who loved playing guitar and his baby grand piano at his home. He also enjoyed golf with his old friends, dating back to his early days at the 9-hole Arcadia Golf Course.
John is survived by wife of 21 years, Connie L. Collins, of Port Charlotte, Florida; a son, John W. “Trey” (Andrea) Collins III of Tampa, Florida; daughters, Carli (Mike) Minacci of Tampa, and Cassie Collins of Port Charlotte; grandchildren, Camden and Chase Minacci, and Jackson and Benjamin Collins; a brother, Ronny (Lorrie) Collins of Arcadia; and a sister, Gail (Rick) Comfort of New Port Richey, Florida; and many nieces and nephews. John was preceded in death by his parents, John W. Collins Sr. and Janet S. Collins Walker; and a sister, Pam Collins.
John’s friends and family are invited to a celebration of his life to be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, at Kingsway Country Club, 13625 SW Kingsway Circle, Arcadia FL 34266.
Online condolences can be made at pongerkaysgrady.com.