Phil Collins Artifact Donation Started with McMurry Professors

  Gary Ellison
  Wednesday, July 9, 2014 8:20 AM
  Archives 2014 - 2015

Abilene, TX

Legendary singer, songwriter, actor and producer Phil Collins is making headlines worldwide for donating his vast collection of artifacts and documents from the Alamo and the Texas Revolution to the State of Texas.

But few know that this momentous event started with a simple phone call from Collins to Dr. Donald Frazier, professor of history at McMurry University and president and CEO of the McWhiney History Education Group.

Frazier, an expert on the Texas history as well as historical publishing, encouraged Collins to write his first book, The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey. The book, published by State House Press, takes his passion for the Alamo and tells the story of the Texas Revolution through the artifacts and documents from his private collection.

“He called and said that he heard the historians at McMurry were the ‘go-to’ people when it came to Texas history,” Frazier said.  “Of course, I agreed.”

At first, Collins had only been interested in allowing photos of certain artifacts to be used to illustrate a book, An Altar for their Sons by Gary Zaboly, also published by State House Press.  When Frazier saw the extent of the Collins collection, he knew something more lay in store.

“I told Phil that he needed to publish a high-quality, picture intensive work that would allow readers to experience his collection without having to come to his house in Switzerland to see it,” Frazier continued.  “I envisioned a museum you could hold in your hand.  I also told him that, sooner or later, the collection needed to return to Texas.”

The book did such a good job chronicling the Collins collection that it came to the attention of officials at the Texas General Land Office, the state agency responsible for the Alamo.  Now the collection is coming home.

“Think about it.  The last time many of these items have been in San Antonio was when their owners dropped them from lifeless hands,” Frazier remarked.  “This is the best possible outcome for this amazing collection.”

Professor Stephen L. Hardin, also of McMurry and the world expert on the Texas Revolution, also helped with the book by supplying a contextual essay and overseeing key elements of the book.

“Phil needed little help with his history,” Hardin said.  “He wrote nearly every word himself.  He’s read extensively on the subject, tells a great story, and needed little more than encouragement from us.” 

Based on the relationship between the rock star and the historians, McMurry University recognized Collins with an honorary Doctor of History degree at the May 2012 commencement, recognizing his longtime pursuit of collecting artifacts and documents related to the Alamo and the Texas Revolution.

Of course, Collins is best known for his career with the rock band Genesis and as a solo artist. However, as an avid student of the Battle of the Alamo since his boyhood, he has collected hundreds of artifacts related to the famous 1836 battle in San Antonio, narrated a light and sound show about the Alamo, and spoken at a number of related events.

During his career as a musician, Collins sang the lead vocals on several chart hits between 1975 and 2010, either as a solo artist or with Genesis. His top singles include In the Air Tonight, Against All Odds, and Another Day in Paradise. He has sold over 200 million records and won awards ranging from multiple Grammys to Oscars for his creative work in a number of artistic fields.

In March 2010, the rock group Genesis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. In June 2010 Phil was awarded the prestigious Johnny Mercer award and joined an elite company of writers including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Paul Simon.

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Gary Ellison