Robert F. Collins a former New Orleans civil rights attorney, yesterday was nominated by President Carter to become the first black federal judge in the Deep South.
Collins, 46, served as general counsel for the Congress of Racial Equality in Louisiana during the sit in and school desegregation err of the early 1960s, and argued several civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since 1972, he has been a judge in the magistrate section of the Criminal District Court for Orleans Parish (county).
Collins is the second black from the South to be named to the federal bench, according to National Bar Association records. The first was Matthew J. Perry, a leading South Carolina civil rights attorney, who is a judge on the U.S. Military Court of Appeals in Washington. Perry was recommended for the post last year by Sen. Strom Thurmond R-S C.
A graduate of Dillard University and Louisiana State University low school. Collins has been a practicing attorney for 18 years. In an interview yesterday, he said his law firm represented CORE, throughout Louisiana in the 1960s, handling school desegregation [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and freedom march cases.
At one point he said, he and CORE director James Farmer narrowly escaped mounted Louisiana state troopers who charged into a crowd of about 1000 civil rights demonstrators in Plaquemines Parish.
"It was the most terrifying experience of my life," he said. "We were talking in back of this little church when the state police all of a sudden started throwing teargas. It was like wartime.
"We crawled on our hands and kneews across the town square and fturn through a cornfield to escape. The state police were citasing us on horseback with cattle prods," he added.
Collins turned to politics in the 1970s, forming the Community Organization For Urban Politics, a group of black New Orleans activists. He announced his candidacy for a state Senate seat, but then withdrew. Shortly thereafter Gov. Edwin Edward appointed him to the Criminal District Court. He won election to a full 12-year term in 1974.