Steven Collins, one of the most recognizable radio personalities and
community activists in the city, was, as usual, the host with the most
at the annual end-of-summer gathering of the Philadelphia Association of
The next day, he dispatched a tweet to Serena
Williams congratulating her on her fifth U.S. Open singles victory: "You
That evening, he became ill and was taken to
Chestnut Hill Hospital, where he died of a heart attack shortly after
midnight yesterday. He was 58.
death sent shock waves through the city that he had devoted his life to
serving in numerous capacities beyond his popular Sunday-morning radio
broadcast on WRNB-FM, "Philly Speaks."
"He wanted to make sure the
urban community always had a voice," said Darisha Miller, a longtime
friend and president of the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society.
"He was a community giant.
"He was also well-versed in national
and international subjects. If you wanted to have a conversation with
him, you had to be well-versed, too, to keep up with him."
E. Steven, who was director of urban marketing and external relations for Radio One 100.3 FM, obviously loved his work.
listener, Darlene R. Taylor, left a message on a website in which she
said that although she had never seen E, "I always could hear his smile.
"He seemed to be full of joy. What a blessing to have had him touch our lives."
Mayor Nutter summed up some of E's contributions to the city:
Steven was more than a radio personality. He was a Philadelphia icon,
civic leader, mentor, activist and, most importantly, a family man and a
"E. Steven's passing is a significant loss for
Philadelphia. He was one of our city's most important civic voices. I
have fond memories of working with him on many occasions through the
organizations with which he was involved.
"E served on several
boards, including the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the
Urban League of Philadelphia, the Multicultural Affairs Congress and the
Marian Anderson Awards Association . . . and I had the pleasure of
appointing him chair of the re-established Mayor's Commission on
Literacy on Sept. 8, 2010."
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah had an early
experience of E. Steven's generous character. When Fattah, then in his
late teens, needed a car to go on a date, E generously lent him his
Nissan sports car.
"That was an example of the kind of a friend he
was," Fattah said. "He was a great guy. We grew up together and worked
together on a lot of projects."
E. Steven worked at WDAS for 30 years before taking the executive position with Radio One.
E was a tireless supporter of PABJ and believed in speaking up and
mentoring the next generation of black journalists in Philadelphia,"
said Johann Calhoun, PABJ president. "As long as you were positive and
possessed a drive to help others to make the community better, you had
"If there's anything we can learn from knowing E,
it's that humility, kindness and being a friend to all will take you a
long way in life."
"To me he was a big teddy bear with an even
bigger heart, who loved to help and improve the lives of others," said
Sarah Glover, past president of PABJ and a former Daily News photographer. "Philly's airwaves will never be the same."
May, E lost his mother, Edith Marie Collins, who died at 92. "She was
an incredible mother," he said at the time. He credited her emphasis on
speaking good English and diction for preparing him for his radio
Her husband, Ernest J. Collins, a carpenter, died in January 1982.
E's brother, Michael, a police narcotics cop, said his brother "tried his best to emulate the hero of our family, our father.
always stressed the importance of the family. I was at the [radio]
station when Bill Gray announced his retirement and I was amazed at how
good he was at what he did. I kept thinking, 'How does this guy do
this?' He loved it."
E helped to plan the annual Philly's Men Are
Cookin', a cooking event sponsored by the Ivy Legacy Foundation. E's
specialty was Kahlua turkey, said Shariah Dixon-Turner, the foundation's
vice president of finance.
"E did a lot of things behind the
scenes that a lot of people may not be aware of, but he never sought the
limelight," she said. "He simply did all that he did because he cared."
grew up in West Philadelphia, in the same neighborhood that produced
Fattah, as well as the late Ed Bradley, who went from local radio to
CBS' "60 Minutes."
E graduated from West Catholic High School for Boys, which had a radio station and a newspaper, both of which E worked on.
At Temple University, he studied journalism and worked for the university's radio station, WRTI-FM.
He then went with WHAT-AM, and later WDAS, where he was both a newsman and disc jockey, and the rest is radio history.
also coordinated the annual Greek picnic of African-American fraternity
and sorority members from all over the country in Fairmount Park.
He was an organizer of Unity Week in Fairmount Park and Unity Day on the Parkway.
traveled to Africa, had his photo taken with President Obama in
Philadelphia during his first election campaign, and met President
Ronald Reagan when E was part of a delegation of Concerned Black Men of
Philadelphia, which Reagan honored in a White House ceremony in 1985.
was married to Lisa Duhart-Collins, a Philadelphia public-relations
executive. Besides his wife and brother, he is survived by two sons,
Rashid and Langston, and three sisters, Judy Cherry, Janet Ridley and