Clergymanandcivil rightsactivistJohn Hurst Adams was born November 27, 1927 in Columbia,South Carolinato Reverend E.A. Adams and homemaker Charity Nash Adams. John Adams graduated fromBooker T. WashingtonHigh School in Columbia, South Carolina and in 1947 earned an A.B. degree in history fromJohnson C. Smith Universityin Charlotte,North Carolina. Later, he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) degree and Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) degree from Boston (Massachusetts) University School of Theology in 1952 and 1956, respectively. Adams also studied at Harvard University and Union Theological Seminary, as well. He attended Boston University for his theology degree at the same time asRev. Martin Luther King. After completing his education at Boston University, Adams served briefly on the teaching faculty ofPayneTheological Seminary atWilberforce UniversityinOhio. Then in 1956 he was named president ofPaul QuinnCollegein Waco,Texasat age 29. At the time he was the youngest person named to the presidency of Paul Quinn College and the youngest college or university president in the nation. Adams remained at the institution until 1962.
Rev. Adams arrived inSeattle,Washingtonin 1962 to become the pastor ofFirst African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black church in the state. He held the pastorate from 1962 until 1968. While at the church Adams became one of the leaders of the African American civil rights movement in Seattle. He chaired theCentral Area Civil Rights Committeefrom its founding in 1963 until 1968 and was a co-founder of the country’s first war on poverty agency, theCentral Area Motivation Program (CAMP). Along with other local black leadership at that time, Adams participated in what he called “an inner circle” of local civil rights leaders whose coordinated leadership transformed Seattle’s community movement and politics.
While in Seattle, Adams won a number of awards for his staunch advocacy for racial justice. The Seattle Chapter of B’nai B’rith named him Man of the Year in 1964 and the following year, the SeattleUrban Leaguebestowed the same honor upon him.
In 1968, Reverend Adams was moved by his Bishop to serve as pastor of GrantAMEChurch in theWatts neighborhoodof Los Angeles,California. After four years as a pastor in Los Angeles, he was made Bishop of the AME Church in Texas in 1972. He served as Bishop in a number of districts including his home district of South Carolina before his retirement in 2004 at the age of 77. While in South Carolina, Adams led the successful effort to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House.