Radio host E. Steven Collins warmly remembered

Matt Coppy (from left) on trumpet , Jeff Bradshaw on trombone, and Korey Riker on saxophone open the service with a musical tribute to E. Steven Collins, a radio host for four decades who had a presence on almost all of the city's major African American stations during his career. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer
Matt Coppy (from left) on trumpet , Jeff Bradshaw on trombone, and Korey Riker on saxophone open the service with a musical tribute to E. Steven Collins, a radio host for four decades who had a presence on almost all of the city's major African American stations during his career. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 23, 2013

PHILADELPHIA E. Steven Collins was a giant of Philadelphia media, a beloved radio host and community activist who was often described as the city's unofficial mayor.

So it was fitting that politicians, executives, and hundreds of well-wishers packed Sharon Baptist Church in West Philadelphia on Saturday to remember Collins, who died of a heart attack at age 58 on Sept. 9.

At an emotional memorial service, the list of guest speakers resembled a who's who of regional power players, from Mayor Nutter to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and State Sens. Vincent Hughes and Anthony H. Williams.

The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke as well, as did entertainment titans like music producer Kenny Gamble and radio host Tom Joyner, and musical interludes were provided by artists including Grammy-winning gospel singer Smokie Norful.

Near the ceremony's conclusion, Sharon Baptist Pastor Keith Reed read a letter from the White House praising Collins' community involvement.

Nutter, speaking at the beginning of the service, received a standing ovation when he read a city proclamation declaring Saturday E. Steven Collins Day.

"I'll never forget my friend from West Philadelphia," he said, adding that the mayor's office would donate $5,000 to the E. Steven Collins Memorial Scholarship fund.

Collins - referred to as "E" throughout the ceremony - was a radio host for four decades, and before his death was director of urban marketing and external relations for Radio One Inc., including stations such as Praise 103.9, Hot 107.9, and WRNB.

But Collins had a presence on almost all of Philadelphia's major African American radio stations during his career and regularly appeared on television, from Fox29's Good Day Philadelphia to national programs like MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews.

Beyond the microphone, Collins was well-known for his community involvement, and his roles in the city included chairing the Mayor's Commission on Literacy and serving on the boards of several organizations, including the Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence and the Urban League of Philadelphia.

That varied and prolific resumé was remembered by speakers at Saturday's service.

But some messages - such as the one delivered by his sons, Rashid, 26, and Langston, 15 - simply lamented the untimely loss of a man who had affected many lives.

"It's still hard to believe," Rashid Collins said, "that I can't just pick up the phone and call my dad."


Contact Chris Palmer, 609-217-8305, cpalmer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter, @cs_palmer.


 

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