Tribute to Barbara Toomer, one of the founding members of ADAPT

By Jerry Costly
Utah ADAPT

  • The Disabled Rights Action Committee members, L-R, Ted Loosli, Barbara Toomer, and Doris King, along with their attorneys talk to the media during a press conference outside the Scott Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City on October 17, 2002. The group announced three lawsuits that they are filing against Gateway developers The Boyer Co.
  • Barbara Toomer, advocate for the disabled on August 9, 2006
  • Barbara Toomer talks after she was announced as this year's Rosa Parks Award recipient during the annual NAACP Martin Luther King Day luncheon at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City Monday January 16, 2017
  • Barbara Toomer, advocate for the disabled on August 9, 2006
  • Becky Lloyd, an interviewer for the University of Utah's Oral Histories project, left, interviews Barbara Toomer, a veteran on Feb. 25, 2006
  • Barbara Toomer, June 5, 1989
  • Barbara Toomer tells her life story to Becky Lloyd, an interviewer for the University of Utah's Oral Histories project on Feb. 25, 2006
  • Barbara Toomer, advocate for the disabled on August 9, 2006

Barbara Toomer, Utah activist who was at the first ADAPT Action in 1983 and Mom/Grandma to many ADAPTers, recently passed away at age 88.

She was to join Heath Montgomery age 8 in DC as the ADAPT’s National FUNRUNNERS. The concept was to bookmark our ADAPT activists with our youngest and oldest. This was to also honor Barbara’s role in helping found, shape and push ADAPT onward to our many victories. These victories were hard won. Barbara had been arrested approximately 35 times for her non-violent civil disobedience. She has spent up to four days in a jail cell. I suppose someone, somewhere could find a way to question Barbara’s politics or her tactics but no one, anywhere can or has every questioned her commitment to disability civil rights.

Barbara never asked anything of us that she wasn’t willing to give herself, but that set an extremely high bar. In the course of her work with ADAPT, as one of our consistent top day leaders she earned the title of “Sergeant Grandma”. This wasn’t a term of endearment. Rather, she earned that title by virtue of her drill sergeant demeanor. She could be harsh and unforgiving of those who weren’t willing to live up to their commitment or those who didn’t “get it.” However, she fierce loyalty of a grandmother to those who earned her trust. Her strongest loyalty was reserved for national ADAPT. She attended every action that her health would allow. She was planning on attending our upcoming DC action at age 88 and showed no signs of slowing down. Only one other ADAPT member, Mark Johnson, who was at the first action with Barbara, is still will us.

The Fun Run was our opportunity to honor Barbara. It still is. Barbara’s wish was that ADAPT be strengthened by Fun Run donations that might be made in her name. Beyond that, Barbara’s passing is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our commitment. No one of us can every hope to champion our cause as Barbara has; no one can ever take her place. But just maybe, if collectively we reach down deep inside and give this cause the best we have, just maybe we can rise to this occasion. Barbara is counting on it. And if you believe in any kind of afterlife then you had better believe she is watching and will hold us accountable for how we hold and move her legacy forward.

Free Our People.

2018-04-25 Fox - Barbara Toomer
2018-04-25 KSL - Barbara Toomer
2018-04-25 Salt Lake Tribune - Barbara Toomer