During an event Tuesday morning to remember former Republican Senator Linda Collins, who was found dead at her home near Pocahontas last Tuesday, legislators and co-workers shared memories and prayers for the senator while wearing red, Collins’ favorite color.
Ken Yang, who worked with Collins on her Senate campaign, also distributed a statement from Collins’ father, son and daughter, asking people to “protect the integrity” of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and Arkansas State Police’s investigation into the homicide.
“We are surprised, upset, angered, and saddened by this event and are at a loss for words in describing the feelings and emotions that we are currently going through,” Yang said, reading from the statement. “We are confident that the Randolph County Sheriff’s Department and the Arkansas State Police are using all resources available to find a resolution to this investigation and put our hearts and minds at ease.”
Yang also had strong words for people “sounding off on social media” and to the “media in general” about Collins’ death.
“I want to say this as firm, but not mean, as I can. Please respect the family. Please share only official news from the police and from the funeral home,” Yang said. “Respect and honor Linda’s memory. … It is a grave disrespect, [by] the people who are dishonoring the memory of Linda, and they should know better.”
The death is being investigated as a homicide. Her body was found outside her home June 4. The cause of death has not been revealed and if investigators have leads on a suspect, they haven’t spoken publicly of them.
A few people spoke to the crowd gathered in the Capitol’s rotunda about Collins’ “God-fearing” beliefs and her passion as a Senator for legislation related to gun rights, abortion, child welfare and victims’ rights. Erin Hogan, a former aide to Collins during the 2017 legislative session, called Collins “one of the best state senators to ever grace the state of Arkansas.”
“She was the same person behind closed doors as she was outside,” Hogan said.
“She was a true conservative, a patriot, a stateswoman, and my very, very dear friend.”
Republican Sen. Missy Irvin said she and Collins became friends on the 2010 campaign trail, and reminded those at the event of the issues Collins was “passionate” about, including “education and school choice” and child welfare reform.
“She was passionate about victims’ rights, understanding that in the courtroom, you need to always pay special attention to the victims and what they are suffering through and the suffering their families have,” Irvin said. “In fact, her last interview on social media was interviewing victims about victims rights.
Irvin also called Collins a “fierce defender” of the Second Amendment and an “even fiercer defender and protector of life” and a “warrior for unborn children.”
“This is what I will always remember most about her: She was true to her views because of the deep belief in God and in his word,” Irvin said. “She was a Christian, and she wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers to let you know about what His word said about that issue.”
Irvin grew emotional while sharing Collins beliefs, calling her a “fire-breather,” before ending her remarks with a prayer Collins wrote.
Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield also spoke at the event, saying he and Collins were “very close friends.” He told those in attendance “not to form an opinion of someone before you know them,” saying he thought Collins was an “elitist or an intellectualist” upon first meeting her. But after getting to know Collins and learning more about her “country upbringing,” the Senator realized Collins was “more like Ellie Mae Clampett than Raquel Welch.”
He also spoke of Collins’ integrity as a legislator.
“She was incorruptible. You could not buy Linda Collins,” Stubblefield said. “Those are the kind of people we need in this Capitol. She had true values, core values, that were not debatable.”
Yang closed. He grew emotional while saying that “these would be the times that Linda would be there for me.”
“Even after I stopped working for her, she always had a task or a job for me to do for her, and I was always happy to oblige,” Yang said. “I was [in] lifetime employment for Linda, and if you knew Linda, I hope you’ll find this in jest: Even with her passing, she still has me working for her.”
Yang said that Collins’ family is asking for donations to be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in lieu of flowers, and messages to the family can be added on the Fears Family Funeral Home’s website.
Jajuan Archer, founder of Women’s Own Worth — an Arkansas-based nonprofit that offers services for victims of domestic violence and violent crime — asked Yang if any reward had been set for information on Collins’ death, and Yang said one had not been set at this time.
“I can say right now that we’ll give the first $1,000 towards a reward,” Archer said. “Violence impacts everyone, and it can happen to a janitor, to a senator, whoever. The violence needs to end everywhere, especially in Arkansas. Especially for [Collins’] great work that she did with victims. For this to happen to her is unbelievable.”
Visitation will take place Friday from 4-6 p.m. at Sutton Free Will Baptist Church at 5421 Hwy 62 West in Pocahontas. The funeral service, also at Sutton Free Will Baptist Church, will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. A private, family-only burial will follow.