June 27, 2014

Collins’ gift to Texas started as a London boy’s frontier dream

Instead of playing cowboy, the star drummer grew up to play Texas philanthropist and donate an entire museum full of Alamo artifacts.

In 1950s London, a bubbly little boy cherished two playthings most of all: his drum set and his Davy Crockett coonskin cap.

Almost 60 years later, Oscar- and Grammy-winning Phil Collins has gone on to learn better songs than The Ballad of Davy Crockett. But his love for a Walt Disney TV series grew into a love for the Alamo, and he is sharing his love with Texas.

In one of the largest charity gifts ever to a Texas history museum, Collins, 63, is sending his $10-$15 million collection of Alamo-related artifacts to San Antonio for a new exhibit and tourist center adjacent to the historic mission battleground.

His boyhood fascination with actor Fess Parker’s 1954-55 TV series Davy Crockett and with John Wayne’s 1960 movie The Alamo never faded, leading him to visit in person in 1973 on his first U.S. tour with the band Genesis.

Not long afterward, in Washington, he saw a dealer selling a letter by U.S. Rep. Crockett, a Tennessee congressman before following the Texas Revolution to his death during the fall of the Alamo March 6, 1836.

“It made me think, wow — this stuff is out there,” he said Thursday at Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s thrilled acceptance party on the Alamo Plaza.

“Some people [in music] would buy Ferraris. Some people would buy houses. I bought old bits of metal and bits of paper.”

Collins has written a book about his collection, described as hundreds of collectibles, from feed receipts to cannonballs.

As an example, he brought a sword engraved with fallen hero Jim Bowie’s name that was supposedly taken from a Mexican Army soldier after Texas’ San Jacinto victory.

Collins’ collection covers both sides: “There were brave men on both sides of that war,” he said.

He said he is sending Texas the collection because “I look at it every day, but nobody else is enjoying it.”

Patterson, who has strongly supported honoring both Texas and Tejano history, promised Collins’ collection will help tell “the whole story of San Antonio de Béxar,” the city’s Spanish name.

A $5,000-per-plate Oct. 30 event will kick off fundraising for the museum and visitors’ center, Patterson said.

In exchange for Collins’ gift, Patterson promised him “lifetime free admission.”

Coonskin cap and all, Collins is a 21st-century Texas hero.

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