Liberian Refugee Becomes First Black Mayor For Montanian City
MONTANA — Wilmot Collins currently sits as one of the first black mayors of Helena, Montana.Yet, two decades ago, this dream might have seemed impossible when he was fleeing his home country of Liberia just to stay alive.
“The rebels systematically took over the country,” Collins said of the days leading up to him and his family boarding a refugee ship among 10,000 Liberians. The 1989 rebel invasion spiralled into a 14-year, bloody Civil War, he explained in an interview on Brad Show Live
While the war ravaged his country, it continued to follow Collins and his family who were trying to flee to the safest areas they could.
“My family and I ran out of food, and I lost two brothers. The war got so bloody that other West African countries sent peacekeepers and ships,” Collins recalled.
Without food, Collins and his family trekked to the port where they climbed onto the next available ship that was journeying to Ghana.
Upon their arrival, Collins saw a 92 pound man, dying from starvation, staring back at him in the mirror.
Immediately admitted to a hospital where he stayed seven days for treatment, Collins eventually recovered, and worked to establish a new life for him and his wife.
“My wife was in medical school,” he said, “and after a few months, my wife said she wanted to come to America.”
Contacting a former host family in Montana she lived with previously while a high school exchange student, Collins noted the family was more than willing to help.
The host family enrolled his wife as a nursing student at Carroll College, and after much discussion, she left, Collins remembered.
Wanting to join his wife, Collins registered as a refugee with the United Nations. And “the process took two years and seven months before I was able to meet her,” he added.
Finding a janitorial job within the third week of him arriving to Montana, Collins eventually transitioned from a janitor to a teacher, and later, to the first black mayor of Helena.
Living his American dream, Collins said on Brad Show Live that he “always tells people, America is the great equalizer. If you work hard, there is no way you won’t make it.”
Having two kids born in the United States, with one serving the country in the Middle East, and the other having graduated from college, “all is well, I am really happy,” he said.
To hear more of Wilmot Collin’s incredible story and American Dream, watch below.To view more American Dream segments on Brad Show Live, tune in Monday through Friday from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. EST.