Mrs. Higgins is noted for being the first Black woman to work professionally in the Alachua County Courthouse. Historically, this was a proud moment and marked the beginning of the County’s commitment to equal employment opportunity.
She was a graduate of Gainesville, Florida’s Jones Primary School and Lincoln High School (Class of 1943) and Bethune Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Florida where she earned a Business degree. After College she worked as a Substitute teacher in LaCrosse until offered a position as an Administrative Assistant and Actuarial Support for Central Life Insurance Company of Tampa, and Secretary for Chestnut Funeral Home. Her employment with Alachua County began in September 1954 as an Administrative Assistant at the Extension Office located in the Seagle Building. An eagerness to serve her community began early. Barbara initiated an energetic campaign in the community to register disenfranchised voters following the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Volunteering to conduct Voter Registration drives in the Community led to a part-time job in the Elections Office. Mrs. Alma Bethea, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, hired her in 1967 as a full-time Deputy Supervisor. Her employment continued with this Office when J.K.” Buddy” Irby was elected Supervisor of Elections. She held this position for sixteen years retiring in 1984. Mrs. Higgins received Citations from President Ronald Reagan and Governor Robert Graham, and the Alachua County Board of County Commission's Award for Outstanding Community Service at her retirement.
She was a devoted member and leader at Springhill Missionary Baptist Church for sixty years. Representing her faith was first and foremost in her heart, and led her into a life of service. She was State Corresponding Secretary, Woman’s Convention Auxiliary, Florida General Baptist Convention, Inc., and the first woman appointed to its Board of Directors; President of the Jerusalem Associations’ Woman’s Home Mission Convention for fourteen years; a member of the National Baptist Convention’s Church Women United; listed in Who’s Who among National Baptist Women; and a recipient of the prestigious Sarah A. Blocker Meritorious Service award from Florida Memorial College, a co-founder of the College.
At 26, she was elected Daughter Ruler of the Elks’ University City Temple No. 900, and a founding member and President of the Ultra Modernettes Social Club. She served as interim President of the Alachua County NAACP and Recording Secretary for twenty productive years. Mrs. Higgins was a Charter Member of Voters for Equal Rights, member of the Democratic Executive Committee, League of Women Voters, Gainesville’s Bi-Racial Committee, and an officer in the United Gainesville Community Development Corporation. She served as the first Black President of Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, an organization made up of University of Florida professors’ wives, professional and community activists.
Moreover, she was an active Board Member of the Alachua County Housing Authority for twenty-two years; member of the Gainesville Police Department’s Chief of Police Advisory Board, Black on Black Crime Task Force, Partners Against Crime, Police Advisory Commission, My Boys, Youth Leadership Gainesville, Southeast Neighborhood Association, Springhill Crime Watch, and Reichert House Youth Program (Beta Sigma Alpha Youth Organization and Rites of Passage); and a recipient of the Gainesville Police Department’s Police Support of the Decade and Leadership and Achievement Award
She received the Alpha Phi Alpha Leadership Award, Cameliattes Club Outstanding Community Service Award, Mental Health Association Award for Community Service, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Hall of Fame award, posthumously. Mrs. Higgins received several other significant recognition and awards too numerous to mention.
In 1993, the Alachua County Housing Authority Board established a scholarship in her name to be awarded to Minority Students living on Authority properties enrolled at Santa Fe Community College. In 1994, the Florida General Baptist Convention’s Woman's Auxiliary approved the establishment of a Scholarship in her name to be awarded annually to eligible high school seniors by the Jerusalem Associations’ Woman’s Auxiliary.
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