San Diego County
COLONEL DAVID CHARLES COLLIER
Colonel David Charles Collier is a well-known figure in the life of San Diego and southern California who has played an important part in the growth and development of this section. His interests have extended to many fields, both in the world of business and in civic affairs, while his services to important causes have been of national scope. It is Colonel Collier who has been the guiding spirit in many recent expositions of importance held in this country, while under presidential appointment he has represented the United States at similar expositions held in foreign lands. (Encyclopedia of American Biography)
Colonel Collier was born in Central City, Colorado, August 14, 1871, a son of David C. and Martha Maria (Johnson) Collier. On his father’s side he comes of Scotch and Irish stock, while through his mother he is descended from old New England families of English origin. At an early age he began his business career with no other resources than his own native ability and determination. The circumstances of his early life limited his educational opportunities to attendance at grammar and high school, and in March, 1885, before he had passed his fourteenth birthday, he entered the employ of the First National Bank of San Diego, California, where his parents had taken up their abode in the previous year. Even as a boy Colonel Collier recognized the opportunities which existed here for men of initiative and vision, and it was because of his belief in the city’s future that he was anxious to begin the active work of his own life so early. And so, with his connection with the First National Bank of San Diego, he began his career as banker, lawyer, railroad builder and territorial developer. Colonel Collier remained with the bank until October, 1886. Then he entered the law offices of Collier & Mulford, of which firm his father was senior partner. After a year, in which he made considerable progress in mastering the details of legal theory and practice, he became connected with the California National Bank, but in 1889 he became a clerk in the medical department of the Union Pacific Railroad at Denver. In 1890 he returned to San Diego, again resuming his work in his father’s law office, and on August 21, 1891, he was admitted to the California bar. These various connections of his early life gave him his first knowledge of conditions and problems in a variety of fields in which he was later to achieve marked success.
After he was admitted to the California bar, Colonel Collier formed a partnership with his father for the practice of law. For more than a dozen years he devoted himself to legal work in San Diego, rising to a position of considerable prominence at the local bar. In the meantime his interests gradually extended to other fields, and in 1905 he organized the Ralston Realty Company in association with H. A. Howard. In 1908 the name was changed to D. C. Collier & Company. In 1907 he organized the Western Investment Company, of which he remained president until 1913. For a considerable period Colonel Collier was to give the major share of his time and attention to real estate activities in which he has been prominent to the present day. He has been a leader in the subdivision of large tracts of land into building lots at San Diego, and in general has played a part of the greatest importance in the development of the city as a whole. His confidence in San Diego as reflected in his willingness to make investments in land on a large scale and for a long term, stimulated building projects to a remarkable degree. Among the many developments which Colonel Collier organized and carried out, should be especially mentioned the following: University Heights, Normal Heights, Teralta Heights, East San Diego, Encanto, Ramona, Ocean Beach and Point Loma Heights. All these were successfully completed by him and today stand as a monument to the clear vision, ability and courage of their creator. It is generally recognized in his home community that no praise, however lavish, can do full justice to what Colonel Collier has accomplished and to his ability to make his dreams come true.
Colonel Collier has been associated with several highly consequential enterprises at San Diego. One of the most conspicuous of these was his building of the Point Loma Railroad. He began work on this line in 1908, and when it was completed, early in 1909, he sold it to J. D. Spreckels. Its operation has proved a valuable factor in the city’s growth. Almost all worthy civic causes have enlisted his support. Few men, in fact, have contributed so much to the advancement of the city. When the Panama-California Exposition, held in San Diego in 1915, was first projected in 1909, it was Colonel Collier who became director-general of the exposition, serving later as president from 1912 until he resigned this office in in the summer of 1914. For five years he worked in behalf of this enterprise without receiving or desiring any compensation and for four of the five years he did not even accept anything to recompense him for his expenses. It was he who was the leading spirit in the development of this enterprise, one of the most ambitious ever undertaken here. In 1917 he suggested that the exposition buildings be tendered for use to the United States Navy Department and as the accredited representative of the city of San Diego he accompanied Congressman William Kettner to Washington to make this offer. As a result the Naval Training School was located here and since then has been made a notable institution by the Navy Department.
Another field in which he is an outstanding leader is aviation. In 1910 he organized and became the president of the Aero Club of San Diego. He brought Glenn H. Curtiss, famous aviation pioneer, to San Diego and established a flying field on North Island, which is now the finest flying field of the United States Navy. In 1913 he proposed that the state of California cede all tide lands in front of the city of San Diego to the city and succeeded in securing the passage by the legislature of an act which accomplished this suggestion. He has personally directed three successful meets at San Diego.
Colonel Collier’s success with the Panama-California Exposition, and his record in the management of other large scale projects, led to his appointment in 1922 by President Harding to represent the United States at the Brazilian Centennial Exposition. In 1925 he was appointed director-general of the Sesquicentennial International Exposition at Philadelphia, resigning after ten months because his advice was not being followed. He was exposition consultant for the Republic of Panama in 1925-26. In 1927 he assisted in initiating the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1933—A Century of Progress. He is recognized as one of the leading experts in the world in directing these giant projects. He was made director-general of the Order of Liberty Bell in 1930 and is president of the California-San Diego Centennial Exposition. After his activities in many other parts of the United States, he returned to his home in San Diego, and here reentered the real estate business. He is now engaged in law practice.
On January 1, 1896, David Charles Collier married (first) Ella May Copley, of San Diego, California, from whom he obtained a legal separation on November 11, 1914. They were the parents of two children: David Copley, now deceased; and Ira Clifton. Colonel Collier married (second) on November 14, 1915, Ruth E. Everson, of Oakland, California, who died August 28, 1916. On December 13, 1919, he married (third) Clytie B. Lyon. Mrs. Collier has one daughter, Clytie B., by a former marriage. Colonel and Mrs. Collier reside at 4544 Granger Street in San Diego.
Not only has Colonel Collier been active in civic affairs, but he has also been much interested in politics, although he has sought public office only once. This was in 1902, when he made a spirited independent campaign for the Republican nomination for Congress from San Diego. He has exercised an important influence in Republican Party ranks, going as a delegate to various state, county and city conventions, and serving as a member of the Republican committee in the west. From 1908 to 1910 he was a lieutenant-colonel on the staff of Governor James N. Gillett of California. He is a director of the San Diego Museum, a member of the board of managers of the American School of Research at Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a member of the Sons of Colorado and the Colorado Pioneers. Colonel Collier is also an ex-president and a life member of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, a life member of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Concordia Turnverein, the National Geographic Society, and an honorary member of the Brotherhood of North American Indians, and the Southern Commercial Secretaries Association. Fraternally he is associated with the Free and Accepted Masons, in which he is a member of all higher bodies, including the thirty-second degree of the Consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. He is an honorary life member of Al Bahr Temple of San Diego and of Osman Temple of St. Paul, Minnesota, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He is also a life member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He is a director of the Mission Bay State Parks Association and of the State-County Parks Association. Among his clubs may be mentioned the following: Rowing Club, of which he is a life member; the San Diego Yacht Club, the Advertising Club, of which he is an honorary life member; the Rotary Club; the Sojourners Club, the Pen and Pencil Club, the State Fencibles and the Boosters’ Association, the last three of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of all of which he is an honorary member; the Cuyamaca Club; the San Diego Athletic Club; the Automobile Club of Southern California; and the San Diegans. Another organization of which he is a member is the San Diego Realty Board. Colonel Collier is an honorary life member of the Ramona Chamber of Commerce; and honorary members of the Associacao Brasileira da Imprensa, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Instituto Grographico e Historico de Bahia, Brazil.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 493-498, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.