Calvin Lawrence Collier (1923–2016)

Calvin L. Collier was a career U.S. Air Force officer who wrote several regimental histories of Arkansas Confederate units around the time of the Civil War Centennial in the 1960s and was one of the founders of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas.

Calvin Lawrence Collier was born on September 8, 1923, the youngest of the eight children of Robert E. Collier and Nettie Mae Pippin Collier of Dendron, Virginia. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force in November 1942 and flew thirty-six missions in B-26 “Marauder” bombers during World War II as part of the 451st Bomb Squadron, 322nd Bomb Group, Ninth Air Force. Collier was badly wounded during one mission. He flew planes during the Berlin Airlift and, by the late 1950s, was serving with the 825th Combat Defense Squadron at the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) in Jacksonville (Pulaski County), where he earned the nickname IAMWAM (Iron Ass Major With A Mustache). He retired as a major around 1963, having earned numerous medals and awards, including a Purple Heart, an Air Force Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, a European Theater of Operations Medal with three battle stars, and an Army of Occupation medal with the Berlin Airlift symbol. He married Melba Parsons, and the couple raised five daughters, a son, and two step-sons.

Collier was still serving at LRAFB when his first book, They’ll Do To Tie To!: The Story of the Third Arkansas Infantry, C.S.A., was released from Little Rock’s Pioneer Press on December 22, 1959, earning him a two-page spread in the Arkansas Democrat Sunday Magazine that featured a photograph of him in his office before a framed quote from Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson: “Never Take Counsel of Your Fears.” The first printing of 1,800 copies had sold out by December 1960, with sizable sales recorded in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey.

His second book, First In–Last Out: The Capitol Guards, Ark. Brigade, a history of Company A of the Sixth Arkansas Infantry Regiment, was published in the spring of 1961. An Arkansas Gazette reviewer wrote: “Major Collier makes you conscious of the sweaty bodies of desperate fighting men at your shoulder and the stench of blood and death strikes your senses and you hear the thud of muskets and the rattle of canteens and all the sounds the ranks make as they prepare to go into action.”

After retiring from the air force, Collier published The War Child’s Children: The Story of the Third Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry, Confederate States Army in 1965 and collaborated with Floyd R. Barnhill Sr. of Jonesboro (Craighead County) on writing The Fighting Fifth: Pat Cleburne’s Cutting Edge: The Fifth Arkansas Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., which was published in 1990.

In addition to his writing on the Civil War, Collier was a founder—with Jerry Russell and William O’Donnell—of the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas in March 1964. Governor Orval Faubus appointed him to the State of Arkansas Monuments Commission, which was instrumental in the installation of a memorial to the Third Arkansas Infantry dedicated at the Gettysburg battlefield on June 18, 1966.

Following his retirement from the military, Collier worked in development at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, served as station manager at classical radio station KMAG, and sold real estate. He also was a popular and prolific speaker on such topics as the Civil War and communism. In 1986, he moved to Baltimore, then to Virginia in 2008. In 2015, Butler Center Books, a division of the Central Arkansas Library System, published a reprint of They’ll Do to Tie To! as part of the commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial. Collier died on May 17, 2016, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

For additional information:
Bohlinger, Neill. “Collier Publishes New Civil War Work.” Arkansas Gazette, May 28, 1961, p. 6E.

“Book on Confederates Sells Well in North, Author Collier Learns.” Arkansas Gazette, December 1, 1960, p. 8A.

“Collier Gets Radio Spot.” Arkansas Democrat, March 20, 1965, p. 7.

“Major-Historian Praises Arkansas’s Capitol Guards for Civil War Heroism.” Arkansas Gazette, May 22, 1961, p. 5B.

Patrick, Ralph. “Part-Time Historian, Full-Time Militarian.” Arkansas Democrat Sunday Magazine, March 20, 1960, pp. 1–2.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 11/12/2019