More than a week after the death of a local radio icon sent shock waves through the greater Philadelphia region, thousands of people gathered to remember E. Steven Collins.
The longtime radio legend and civic leader died suddenly Sept. 9 from a heart attack while surrounded by family and friends, announced Radio One -- the company where Collins worked as Director of Urban Marketing and External Relations and hosted of his weekly show, Philly Speaks on Old School 100.3.
Collins, affectionately known by friends as "E", was 58.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called the "tremendous loss" of his friend "hard" to take, an "immeasurable" loss.
"I don't know when I met him... but certainly will never forget him," Nutter said.
"Collins was a consummate professional in terms of communications but also he knew how to communicate with people, he connected with folks," Nutter said.
Nutter was among 6,000 mourners at Sharon Baptist Church in the Wynnefield Heights section of Philadelphia for what organizers called a celebration of Collins' life. Other dignitaries and celebrities expected in attendance included Rev. Al Sharpton, radio host Tom Joyner, music legend Kenny Gamble, U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah and many others.
The memorial included speeches and music in honor of the well-known and loved radio personality. Collins was buried at an earlier private ceremony.
Radio One founder Kathy Hughes talked to NBC10.com about Collins legacy.
"I've worked with a lot of the greats in my day and nobody I have ever seen in my entire career had the type of connection to the community, the type of trust the community has...but more importantly the commitment he had to this city," said Hughes.
NBC10 social media editor Sarah Glover knew Collins through the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and was friends with Collins even spending time with Collins and his family at a pool party this past Saturday at his Glenside, Pa. home.
"He was upbeat, entertaining friends, his jovial self" Saturday, said Glover.
"He's just the type of person who is a friend for life, very supportive," Glover said.
"He's been in the radio business for four decades. He's touched so many lives in the media, developing the careers of young people. It wasn't just that he was invested in the journalism industry he was also a bridge from the media to the community. He was just as invested in the community."
Collins worked his way up from spinning records to becoming a voice in the community.
“Collins was a valued member of the Radio One Family for over a decade, and brought together the corporate, civic, clergy and overall community for a positive good,” said Radio One chairperson and founder Catherine Hughes. “I personally recruited E. and firmly believe that it was one of the wisest hires of an exemplary executive and broadcaster.”
Colleagues remembered Collins as the “Unofficial Mayor of Philadelphia.” He was “a true leader who cared immensely about his family, his community and his co-worker,” said Radio One regional vice president Christopher Wegmann.
Hot 107.9 radio host Laiya St. Clair remembered Collins as "a rare individual that truly brought joy to all that he touched:"
"Joy is a simple word but quite complex," St. Clair told NBC10. "That was E. When I heard of his passing all of a sudden my back felt heavy from the weight that he left behind for us to carry. We have to all take a piece of him and continue his legacy of uplifting our community."
Collins’ accolades included work on local television, as an analyst on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews as well as work for CNN, PBS and other media entities. He also sat board for Ivy Legacy, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Multicultural Affairs Congress, the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications and Mayor Nutter's Commission on Literacy.
Nutter says he hopes to name a school or scholarship for Collins.
"Anytime you asked him to do anything E. Steven Collins was right there," said Nutter.
Collins was also involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Urban League of Philadelphia, the African-American Museum and Concerned Black Men of Philadelphia.
A graduate of Temple University, Collins was set to receive the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award and be inducted into Temple's School of Media & Communication Hall of Fame next month.
Collins spent nearly 30 years however working at WDAS radio before moving to Radio One.
Collins is survived by his wife Lisa, and sons Rashid and Langston as well as relatives, friends and legions of listeners around the region and beyond.
Donations for Temple University's E. Steven Collins Memorial Scholarship fund are being accepted online.