By Moses Leos III
When Spencer Thomas and his wife Julie Albertson moved to Kyle in 2000, he quickly found out how high profile James Adkins was.
Adkins, who was mayor at the time, was deeply involved with his consituency. Thomas recalled that Adkins regularly sat at the counter of the Texas Pie Company and talked with people.
“He never met a stranger,” Thomas said.
It was that friendly attitude that Thomas recalled after Adkins passed away Sunday due to complications from prostate cancer. Carol Whisenant, a longtime friend, said Adkins mastered the ability to listen to everyone, no matter what.
“Listening was his skill, which is probably why he was a good counselor, a good neighbor, a good grandfather and a good friend,” Whisenant said.
Adkins, who hailed from Tyler, was raised by his mother, who pushed him to take a variety of classes. According to Whisenant, that included dance, art and theater classes “to engage the mind, creativity and perfunctory.”
She added that the exposure helped him in life, including his time as counselor at what was then known as the Wackenhut prison in Kyle.
But she said Adkins learned a lot from his mother, who was a “trendsetter” for the black community in Tyler.
In addition, Adkins, who had been working in the Texas prison system as a counselor, was selected by then Governor Ann Richards to start a new program at the Kyle facility.
“He was proud of that,” Whisenant said.
Whisenant, who met Adkins in 1997, said a conversation on Kyle and its future brought to light his interest in helping his community.
She and Adkins served on a committee that eventually found an alternative site for a proposed office building. That building was to be built on city square park.
“[We talked about] the hope and what people in a community need for growth. And not just building growth, but personal growth in a community,” Whisenant said.
Adkins ran for mayor shortly thereafter and was elected in 1999. He served the city until 2003. Adkins attempted an unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2014.
Thomas said Adkins’ strength was that he was encouraged everyone to participate, from the city to Hays CISD to Hays County. He listened to ideas from those who sought to assist the community.
“He did a good job of working with everyone and bringing them all in,” Thomas said.
Thomas said Adkins’ penchant to talk with people on the campaign trail was evident during his final election bid.
“He put miles on his car,” Thomas said. “He didn’t buy a bunch of signs and put them up. He talked to people in different neighborhoods. He knew everyone.”
In addition, Whisenant said Adkins opened doors for people, primarily within his role as a counselor.
But it was raising his two grandsons to their teenage years that Whisenant said spoke the most about Adkins’ character.
“Adopting his grandkids is a good picture of his overall value as a human being,” Whisenant said. “That he was willing to take to himself and try to bring the best out of what could have been a lost situation and a lost opportunity.”
Current Mayor Todd Webster said he met Adkins 15 years ago to air out a grievance.
Instead of taking offense to his criticism, Webster said he was asked by Adkins to serve on the Planning and Zoning Committee.
The two formed a friendship that strengthened in recent years.
Webster lauded Adkins’ service to Kyle and his “unwaivering commitmet” as he led the city forward.
“He was someone who wanted to build something great here and was optimistic about our community and what we could accomplish together,” Webster said in a statement. “He approached the city’s challenges with a sense of purpose and helped assemble a team that could address those challenges. I am thankful because Kyle is a much a better place because he chose to do so.”