Bishop John Hurst Adams grew up as the son of Reverend E.A. Adams in Columbia, South Carolina. He attended Boston University for his theology degree at the same time as Rev. Martin Luther King; was made president of Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas at age 26 in 1956; and moved to Seattle to serve as pastor of its oldest and one of its most prestigious black churches, First African Methodist Episcopal (AME), in 1962.
During his time in Seattle, from 1962 to 1968, Adams was a key spokesperson for the African American movement for civil rights during its most intense period. He chaired the Central Area Civil Rights Committee and co-founded the country’s first war on poverty agency, the Central Area Motivation Program. Along with NAACP leader Charles V. Johnson, Urban League Director Ed Pratt, and CORE and later Model Cities Director Walter Hundley, Adams participated in what he has called “an inner circle” of local civil rights leaders whose coordinated leadership transformed Seattle’s social movement politics. While in Seattle, the Seattle Chapter of B’nai B’rith named him Man of the Year in 1964, and the Seattle Urban League named him Man of the Year in 1965.
In 1968, Reverend Adams was moved by his Bishop to serve as pastor of Grant AME Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After 22 years as a pastor, he was made Bishop in 1972. He retired from active service in the church in 2004, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bishop Adams shared his memories of Seattle’s Civil Rights Movement in a videotaped interview conducted by Trevor Griffey and Janet Jones on June 24th, 2005.
Rev. John Adams and Dolly Adams meet with Bishop Thomas Gill probably in 1964. Photo courtesy Catholic Northwest Progress