J. L. Collins, age 83, passed away Saturday morning, August 17, 2019 at Beech Tree Manor in Jellico, Tennessee. “Sarge”- as he became affectionately known – was born on December 3, 1935 to the late Will Collins and Beulah M. (Lance) Collins in Tellico Plains, TN.

He was a member of Class of 1954 – Tellico Plains High School.

“Sarge” proudly served his country for 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. He was a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Among the many medals and commendations that were awarded to him, he earned the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action, the U.S.M.C. Bronze Star for heroic achievement, the Meritorious Mast for achievement and devotion, the Navy Commendation Medal for meritorious service, and the Gold Star, in lieu of a second Purple Heart, all while serving on active duty in Vietnam.

After retirement from the Marine Corps, he worked for and retired from CSX Transportation. “Sarge” was instrumental in the organization of the American Legion Honor Guard, Arlie Long Post # 154 in 1993. As a founding member, he was honored to serve his departed brothers-in-arms, and their families, as long as he lived. He was also an avid beekeeper.

He was elected to Campbell County School Board four times and served the people of Fifth District of Campbell County for 16 years. The Campbell County School Board dedicated and named a new building on the campus of Jellico High School in 2015 in his honor – The J. L. (Sarge) Collins Learning Center. He was also a member of Newcomb Baptist Church.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a grandson, Collin Stephens; brothers, Cleadis O. Collins, Cleave O. Collins, Rex L. Collins, Eldon D. Collins, Harry A. (Dody) Collins, and Jack Collins; sister, Alice (Collins) Thompson; father-in-law and mother-in-law, Cecil Williams and Grace (Bean) Williams; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Lois (Williams) Surber, Billie (Williams) McNealy, and Robert (Bobby) Williams.

He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Elaine (Williams) Leach Collins; children, Debbie Valdez, and husband, José, of Riceville, TN, Connie Stephens, and husband, Tony, of Athens, TN and Barbara Preston, and husband, Randy, of Athens, TN, Thomas S. Collins, and wife, Cara, of Springdale, Arkansas, Jimmy Leach, and wife, Rose, of Jellico, TN, Michelle (Leach) Renner, and husband, Dan, of Powell, TN; grandchildren, Cory Shugart, Patrick Shugart, Stephanie Dougherty, Fallon Stephens,
Addison Stephens, Zeb Preston, Eliza Collins, Judah Collins, and Walker Collins, Brandon Leach and Katie Leach, Clint Thomas, and Michael Renner; great-grandchildren, Weston Blankenship and Marcus Blankenship; brothers, Charlie Collins, of Tellico Plains, TN, Bill Collins, of Athens, TN, and Meldon (Whitie) Collins, of Houston, Texas; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Gene Williams, and wife, Pat, of Franklin, TN, James Williams, of Andersonville, TN, and Christine Garrison and husband, Gary, of Oak Ridge, TN; several nieces and nephews, and a host of friends, neighbors, and other relatives to mourn his passing.

The family will receive friends for visitation on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cox & Son Funeral Home Chapel. There will be a Military Presentation beginning at 8 p.m. The funeral will immediately follow with Rev. Francis “Junior” Dople and Rev. E. Wayne Barton, II officiating. Special music will be provided by Crouches Creek Baptist Church.

Full Military Graveside Honors will be conducted by the American Legion Honor Guard, Arlie Long Post # 154 of Elk Valley, TN with Chaplain Gary “Boo” Leach officiating.

Interment will follow on Thursday, August 22, 2019 at 12 noon at the Douglas Cemetery in the Oswego Community of Campbell County, TN.

Pallbearers will be his brothers who served in the United States Marine Corps.

Honorary pallbearers will be Dr. Robert Alley, Gary Douglas, Eugene Justice, Leon Justice, Ray Maiden, Bill Payne, Jerry Sharp, and Carl Small.

Traditional expressions of sympathy are welcome or memorial contributions may be made to the American Legion Honor Guard, Arlie Long Post # 154, 4337
Highway 297, Newcomb, TN 37819.

Cox & Son Funeral Home of Jellico is in charge of all arrangements.

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