Barb Adkins, manager of Route 66 Visitors Center in Bloomington, dies at 61

Barb Adkins, a former deputy city manager and civil rights crusader who managed the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 visitors center in downtown Bloomington, Illinois, after her retirement, died Saturday. She was 61.

Adkins was there when the visitors center opened in 2015 and had 300 visitors in its first three hours:

“We’re very pleased,” she said. “I think people are most impressed with how we were able to utilize this space. Before, this was dark, but now it’s well lit and fun to walk through.”

Adkins, a native of East St. Louis, came to the area to attend Illinois State University and wound up staying after she graduated.

In all, worked for 32 years for the city of Bloomington, starting as a police dispatcher, then community relations coordinator, community affairs specialist and, finally, deputy city manager from 2006 to 2014.

Adkins also was a civil rights advocate, as The Pantagraph reported after talking to former alderman Michael Matejka:

In 1996, she was the force behind the anti-racism march from what is now the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington to Mount Pisgah Baptist Church.
“She always stood up for people, always stood up for the right things, but did it in a mannerism that was inviting and inclusive to all people and worked so hard behind the scenes for our community,” said Matejka during a council meeting on Monday. “(she) really lived and breathed Bloomington, Illinois.” […]
“You knew she was passionate about human rights, but she did it in a way that did not frighten but invited people,” Matejka said. “She had a real gift for giving everybody a chance to learn and an opportunity to grow.”

Adkins eventually wound up being back at the McLean County Museum of History, where the Route 66 visitors center eventually was located.

WGLT radio reported:

She also spearheaded the Not In Our Town movement in the Twin Cities, and integrated it with city hall.
“She pushed for extra police patrols at African American churches at a time when church burnings were going on. Barb was critical to all that and she did it in a way that was not confrontational because she had a very accepting manner and could make them feel welcome. Even if they frustrated her she went out of her way to be inclusive,” said Matejka.

Information about the funeral wasn’t available.

(Image of Barb Adkins from Facebook)

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