Bris Collins

Bris Collins came to Peoria’s North Washington area around the same time as the Pryors, and became a lifelong friend to the family. Over the years he had many legitimate and illegitimate businesses in town: he ran clubs, a motel and a barbeque joint at the same time that he had his hand in narcotics, gambling, and counterfeiting operations. His less legal enterprises landed him in prison at times, but he remained a fixture in the underground entrepreneurial set of black Peoria.

Collins was known as a serious hustler whom one did not want to cross, a well-armed and no-nonsense operator who was happy to throw his weight and money around. But he was also firmly committed to Peoria’s African American community. In his tavern and clubs he refused to serve liquor from local distilleries with racist hiring practices. He supported the Carver Center financially. And when Harold’s Club lost its liquor license and had to close, he gave Richard Pryor a lifeline with a $72 a week gig. His mixture of hard-nosed business practices and generosity suggests the entanglements of crime and community on North Washington Street.

Bris Collins's 1951 mug shot