The reconstructed Central Expressway deserves a new name when it is finished at the turn of the century – The Collins Central Expressway.

“No matter how many times I leave Dallas, I love to see the buildings downtown when I fly home,” Rep. Jim Collins (’32) said before he died.

Collins was the first of a triumvirate of Collins’ passing through Woodrow. Jim graduated in the first class to go all the way through, from opening day as a freshman in the fall of 1928. His brother, Carr Pritchett Collins graduated in 1934, and sister Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler graduated in 1940.

The contributions of all the Collins play a vital role in the history of Dallas.

Jim was the first of four Woodrow alumnus to serve in the House of Representatives. He served longer than all the others put together – until his second successor Sam Johnson (’48) is able to make that claim in the next millennium.

Central Expressway runs through the heart of the third congressional District. The Collins family influence is evident on both sides, from its start in downtown Dallas to Hamilton Park, Richardson and Plano.

The three Collins’ went to SMU. Jim also graduated from Harvard.

Carr ran the family business, Fidelity Union Life, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. Ruth devoted herself to educational, medical and civic work – also epic philanthropy.

Carr died in the mid-1980s, but his name, as well as his father’s, will be remembered at the Baylor Hospital cancer center named after them. Soon, the Old Lawyer’s Inn at SMU will be renovated into a special study center named for Carr.

The 1934 Crusader says of Carr, who was Student Council president, “Ever seeking higher knowledge, ever finding friends.”

Since her brothers’ deaths, Ruth has continued the family tradition and expanded it. She recently received national awards for her leadership, which extends from the board of SMU to the Salvation Army to the United Way, where she holds records of fundraising.

In East Dallas, the historic Wilson Block renovation began with a grant from Ruth. When the Collins family attended Woodrow, they lived on the other end of Swiss Avenue. She contributed heavily to mental health organizations and recently began helping the AIDS crisis.

Even with all her accomplishments, the 1940 Class Favorite has one disappointment. She says her biggest regret is not making cheerleader at Woodrow.

At the 1989 celebration of Woodrow’s 60th Anniversary, which she co-chaired with brother Jim, she was given an honorary megaphone and pom-pons.

It’s about time another honor went to Ruth and her family, which has shaped Dallas and the nation during the century. Their contributions go beyond race, religion and economic boundaries. Therefore, let us give a new name to a new era for Dallas’ main artery – The Collins Central Expressway.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.