Doctor Collins attended Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, and received his Bachelor of Arts (1948) and Doctor of Medicine
degrees from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Collins was trained in the specialty of Pathology under the tutelage of Doctor Ernest William Goodpasture. Before that, he had served as a house-officer in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital/Washington University Medical Center in Saint Louis, Missouri, and a fellow in microbiology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Doctor of Medicine.
Doctor Collins joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1957. He established the division of hematopathology there, training several pathologists who went on to become renowned in their own rights.
Beginning in 1972, Collins collaborated with Doctor Robert J. Lukes in establishing a nosological system for the categorization of malignant lymphomas, which became known as the Lukes-Collins Classification.
He published more than 150 scientific papers in the peer-reviewed literature and also authored a fascicle in the Atlas of Tumor Pathology that is published by the United States. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. In 2001, Doctor Collins and Doctor Steven Swerdlow edited the first available textbook on pediatric hematopathology.
During his long career at Vanderbilt Medical School, Doctor Collins taught generations of medical students. The high standards to which he held both himself and his trainees helped to shape their careers.
His excellence as a teacher, research scientist, and clinical pathologist was recognized through numerous awards from medical school classes and the faculty at Vanderbilt.
Upon retiring from active medical practice in 1999, Doctor Collins began a second career, writing historical books The biography of his mentor, Doctor Goodpasture, was published in 2002. Another book—Ahemic Lake Connections: The Founding Leadership of Vanderbilt University —was completed in 2004.
Doctor Collins died on November 28, 2013, in Nashville, Tennessee, at age 85, of prostatic carcinoma.