My Uncle Bill
Bill Arnold Adkins was born in Stuart, VA on November 5, 1929. He was the 6th child of Thomas Everett "Ev" Adkins and Sally Eggleston Adkins; he was my father's fourth brother. In the 1930s things were pretty tough economically and the family left Stuart for a new start in Henry County. They landed first in Axton but finally settled permanently in Fieldale in 1938. When I came along in 1942, as my father's oldest child, Bill was 12 years old. Growing up I really thought of Bill as a brother. I can remember Bill and his brothers Sam and Dave and my own dad, "Hub,” along with their friends Jerry Merriman and Popeye Wilkinson, playing baseball in the cow pasture. They all loved baseball, they loved the Yankees and argued constantly over baseball statistics. When they played ball I was stationed in the outfield to chase down their home runs. Bill was very tall; later he would tell his grandchildren that he was five feet and eighteen inches. When I was about 6 or 7 Bill and I would race around the house but I could never keep up with those long legs. We would start at the back door and he would pass me just past the kitchen window.
Bill and his brothers were not too interested in attending school. But how they loved to work! Every morning they would beg their Daddy to let them go to work with him. Their father built houses and sometimes he would let them go. Eventually the younger ones left school before graduating and went to work - all in the building trades.
Bill was drafted into the Army after WWII and served as an MP in Germany. He would write me letters from Germany which made me feel very important. His letters were 3 or 4 pages long and very boring to me then. Now I wish I had kept them. But I was just a little 8-year-old kid.
When Bill and his brothers went "courting" I loved to polish their white bucks. (Bucks are suede shoes and white ones were popular then.) And I loved to tease them about their girlfriends: I was truly a pest. Bill married Irene Minter and had 5 children: Stan, Shirley, Dennis, Bruce, and Ken. Bill and his brother Sam had started their own business sanding floors when they were in their twenties. Eventually they turned that into a home construction business which they named Adkins Construction. As the children grew up and began to enter the business they split into two firms: Adkins Construction and Adkins Home Builders.
My Uncle Bill was the master of the quick comeback. Sometimes when people say something you will think later "Well I wish I could have thought to say this or that." But Bill ALWAYS knew exactly how to respond. It was a quick answer and usually it left the other person in the dust. He was a no nonsense kind of guy and because of his size he must have been formidable in some situations. But he was very generous and he was involved in many charities: he founded and was president of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, served on the Virginia Baptist General Board and the Board of Hope Tree, the Salvation Army's Capital Campaign Cabinet. The full list of his community service involvement is too long to list here. In 2002 he was awarded the Jack Dalton Community Service Award.
Bill had a great head for business and he became a millionaire many times over. Thinking about how successful he became reminds me of the story he told me about his Fieldale High School teacher Miss Cassie Rea. One day Miss Rea had a bad moment with Bill and told him he would "never be anything but a ditch digger." It was sad that he always had that remark to remember.
Bill died in 2007 a few months after his annual trip to Florida to watch baseball spring training. Today Adkins Construction, Inc. lives on with his very capable daughter Shirley Adkins Craven at the helm. And all of his children are involved in the building trade as were his father's children.
Written by Elva Adkins Adams February, 2012