- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tuesday is the 100th anniversary of a milestone for the family of Indianapolis author Latonya Collier.

Although it’s not the kind of event most people would celebrate, Collier is not most people. She’s a mother and grandmother, a highway construction worker, an advocate for family and education, and a self-published author.

So it’s not really a surprise that she has planned a community event Saturday at Brookside Park Family Center to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the execution of her great-great-grandfather, Robert Collier, the first black man put to death in Indiana’s now-retired electric chair.

It’s neither Robert Collier’s execution nor his crime - he landed on Indiana’s Death Row for the 1914 shooting of an Evansville police officer - that Latonya Collier wants to share and celebrate. It is the message he had for other troubled black men before his execution, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1vbjNxN ).

“I never had an education because I did not like to study. Now I am going to die in the electric chair, but I hope nobody in this world will follow my example,” Robert Collier said in a newspaper interview before his execution Oct. 14, 1914.

“My advice to my colored brethren is to take care of themselves, study until they get an education, and when they get it, use it to make better men out of themselves.”

The message is as important and on-point today as it was a century ago, said Latonya Collier, who wrote a book about her ancestor titled “Show No Fear: the 1914 Execution of Robert Collier.”

“He was illiterate, and education was something he tried to promote as he was preparing to meet his fate,” she said. “It’s my job to keep passing on that legacy.”

Collier’s free “Passing on the Legacy” event Saturday at the Brookside center, 3500 Brookside Parkway, runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and will include vendors, children’s activities and refreshments.

Collier will be on hand to talk about her great-great-grandfather’s legacy, including his claim that he helped build the electric chair used to snuff his life and the lives of dozens of other Indiana inmates sentenced to death. She’ll also talk about the 10-year journey of personal discovery that led to the publication of her book about the topic, which had long been a family secret.

Collier also will have her two other books on sale, including her newest, “Lord! Help Me, I’ve Got Children.” The new book is an autobiographical story, she said, “about a single mother raising six children in the ghetto in Indianapolis.”

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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