I first met him in January 1978. I was beginning my internship at KMBC TV in Kansas City. Corrice Collins was one of just a handful of African Americans who were working in television in KC at the time. He took me under his wing and tried to teach me what he knew about working in TV news and more so, about dealing with life in TV news. I had other great mentors in that newsroom, Jim Overbay, Gerry Roberts, Jerry Plantz, Larry Moore, Ridge Shannon and Pam Freund. Each and every one of them contributed to my career.
Yet Corrice was my first newsroom buddy. He was working as a night side reporter at the time. Corrice had a massive smile and an infectious laugh. I think he enjoyed egging on the young dummy from K.U.
I can remember the first time I went out with him with a photographer in a live van to do some nonsense story at a nightclub. I remember how foreign I felt roaming the unfamiliar streets of Kansas City and Corrice's frustration at doing a story that really deserve coverage. Corrice had a very strong bullshit detector.
By the late spring I had actually been hired by KMBC and I remember spending countless summer night's after working with Corrice bending an elbow at The Prospect in Westport. We enjoyed baiting each other. The put downs could be incendiary.
One of my favorite moments came when Corrice was getting to a chance to anchor weekends. The station was going through musical chairs on the weekend sports desk after John Sanders escaped to Pittsburgh. Bill McAtee, of CBS Sports fame, was his replacement. But as Billy Bob (as we called him) promised, he was off to the big time in less than six months. The parade of fill-in replacements followed until the station finally hired Craig Sager. Maybe you've heard of him too.
Anyway, Corrice was getting his big chance to fill-in on the anchor desk one weekend, when one of the "replacements" was in to do sports. I don't even remember the guy's name and evidently neither did Corrice. As the cross pitch to sports started a dumbfounded Corrice looked over to the dude and said, "Jesus, I forgot your name!" I was sitting in the control room running chyron and about lost it. Corrice immediately realized his sin.
After the show poor Corrice was truly panicked. He expected phone calls and a full dress down on Monday from news director Ridge Shannon. As I recall the newsroom phones never rang and I'm not even sure Ridge was ever aware of the faux pax.
My other strong memory is sitting with Corrice on the front porch of a house in Lawrence renewing our friendship. I had just gotten back from a month long stint of job hunting in Eugene, Oregon. I had purchased a couple of Oregon Duck track t-shirts. These were special. The shirt featured an African-American duck with a huge fro clearing a high hurdle. I gave one to Corrice. His smile told it all.
I left for a job in Minneapolis three months later. By the time I made it back to Kansas City to work at WDAF about two years later, Corrice had moved on. I had no idea where he landed until several years later when I found out he was working in Mississippi at a station in Jackson. I can only imagine all of the young journalists he mentored there.
I'm sad because today I learned that Corrice died after a battle with cancer. He was a pioneer for Black journalists. It never even crossed my mind when I worked with him the barriers he had overcome to achieve his success. He was just so full of life and gave compassion to those who had the joy of working with him.
His passing reminds me of all the newsrooms I've worked in and all of the friends I left behind through the years. Some of them too have passed. I didn't do a very good job of staying connected with those friends until Facebook came along. My prayers go out to Corrice's family and colleagues.