Gary Ennis Collins, 74, died of natural causes Saturday morning, October 13th at Biloxi Regional Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. Services will be held Saturday at 2:00 at Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church with burial at Wright & Ferguson Parkway Memorial Cemetary.
A native of Southern California, Mr. Collins was born in Venice, California on April 30, 1938. Collins graduated from Venice High School and Santa Monica City College before enlisting in the Army. He became interested in acting while in the Army and received the Best Actor award at the International Drama Festival of 1959 for his starring role in "The Rainmaker." He also received accolades for his performance in the Edward Albee play "The Death of Bessie Smith." He ended his army career as an announcer for Armed Forces Radio in Europe.
His motion picture debut was in "Cleopatra," starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He was next seen in Darryl F. Zanuck's "The Longest Day." While in Europe, Collins toured for six months with the American Theatre Wing. He returned to New York to appear on Broadway where he reprised his role in Richard Nash's "The Rainmaker" and starred inc Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore." He then toured for a season with the Barter Theatre of Abington, Virginia.
His first TV break was in 1965 when he starred in the NBC series "The Wackiest Ship in the Army," with Jack Warden. He starred with Dale Robertson in the 1966-68 series "Iron Horse." In 1972 he starred in "The Sixth Sense," a series in which he played a parapsychologist. In 1974, he starred in the TV version of "Born Free" which was filmed on location in Kenya.
He became a familiar face in American living rooms in the 1980's as the congenial host of the syndicated afternoon talk show "Hour Magazine," for which he won a daytime Emmy. He was also the host of ABC's "The Home Show" from 1989-1994 and hosted the Miss America Pageant from 1982 to 1990. He starred in Danielle Steele's movie "Secrets" and "The Kid From Left Field." He also appeared in the most widely viewed miniseries in television history, "Roots" and guest-starred in countless television dramas including "The Virginian," "Love, American Style," "Charlie's Angels", "JAG" and "Friends." His career has taken him around the world and landed him a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1967, he married Mary Ann Mobley of Brandon, Mississippi, which began his love affair with the Magnolia State. He often said to friends that he was born in California, but Mississippi was his home. He and his wife have been involved with the March of Dimes for more than 30 years and they were active volunteers, traveling the world with various relief organizations to end world hunger. They were involved with the National Foundation for Crohns & Colitis and he was dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer in support of his wife, Mary Ann, a two-time cancer survivor. In addition, he was active on behalf of Juvenile Diabetes in support of his grandson Gaston and enjoyed his involvement with Willowood and the Rankin Medical Center. He was always available when Mississippi called.
He is survived by wife Mary Ann Mobley Collins; daughters Clancy Collins White and Melissa Collins; son Guy William Collins; their respective spouses William Dean White and Michelle Collins; sister Linda Ackerman; and two grandsons, Garrett and Gaston Collins.
Published in Clarion Ledger on Oct. 18, 2012