Dorothy Adkins’ family and friends can name countless qualities while reminiscing over her century-long life, be it her dedication to church, investment in equality or her passion for teaching and learning alike. But all of them come down to one constant: loving everybody.
Adkins, who died Dec. 16 at her home at Good Samaritan Society Denton Village, was six days away from turning 102. She was born in Lubbock and moved around often, teaching school in both Texas and Colorado during World War II — completing a master’s degree on top of it. She married Roscoe Adkins in 1946, and the two ended up raising their five children in Denton.
In Denton, Adkins would become a staple of the community. She spent years as a Denton ISD teacher and school board member, and was an inaugural member of the well-chronicled Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship in the 1960s. Perhaps her biggest recognition came in 2014, when DISD opened a school named in her honor: Dorothy P. Adkins Elementary School.
Rosca Toulouse, one of Adkins’ daughters, recalled a “well-run” household while growing up with her mother. Adkins’ father was a Presbyterian minister, whose values seemed to rub off on her.
“We went to church — that was a big, big thing,” Toulouse said. “It didn’t matter what you did. Even if you were a teenager out late on Saturday night, you went to church.”
Also of critical importance to Adkins, Toulouse said, was educating her children on the integration of Black students into their schools. Toulouse was in her last two years at Denton High School when integration began and said Adkins prepped her well in advance, including meeting with her future Black schoolmates.
“This is in the ‘50s and ‘60s when I was growing up, and we weren’t really all that aware of the disparity between how Black people were treated and how white people were treated,” Toulouse said. “One of the things she did is help us be aware. … I was ready to just say, ‘OK, here’s another person.’”
Adkins spoke on the issue in 2019, as she celebrated her 100th birthday at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Denton.
“When desegregation became law, my friends and I were worried about our kids and if it would go smoothly,” Adkins said. “A way to fight [racism] was to get the children acquainted before they went to class.”
Adkins was one of several women in the interracial fellowship, and her fellow group members speak highly of her contributions to this day. Ann Barnett, another inaugural member, said she absolutely believes Adkins made a difference in desegregating Denton.
“She definitely made a very positive impact through the interracial women’s group, through her church and through her teaching in the schools,” Barnett said. “She was just a true leader and a wonderful woman, who sincerely cared about all people.”
Carol Riddlesperger, now 103 herself, spent years living with Adkins at Good Samaritan Denton. Riddlesperger said she became friends with Adkins when their families each moved to Denton and helped each other get settled into the city. She was also an original member of the interracial fellowship.
“It was just part of her nature,” Riddlesperger said of Adkins’ advocacy. “She was admired and recognized as a leader in the school system.”
Toulouse said Adkins remained active as long as she could. She made it a tradition to visit the first day of school at Adkins Elementary each year and “had an opinion on everything.” She kept up with her exercise — even if it came down to chair aerobics in her later years — and sang in the Good Samaritan choir until recently.
Toulouse said if she had to pick one lesson for people to take away from Adkins’ life, it would be her mindset toward equality.
“I think if she could make one wish for the world right now,” Toulouse said, “it would be for everyone to remember that God loves everybody.”
Adkins was preceded in death by her husband, Roscoe, her parents, her brothers and a grandson. She is survived by her children Rosca Toulouse, Sara Cox, Judi Adkins, Tom Adkins and Karen Faunce and their partners; 10 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.