11th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote

11th Annual MLK Celebration Keynote

John H. Adams

Bishop, Seventh Episcopal District, Columbia, South Carolina

From Black Past and the Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium, University of Washington

Clergyman and civil rights activist John Hurst Adams attended Boston University for his theology degree at the same time as Rev. Martin Luther King.

Adams 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. In 1956 he was named president of Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas at 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. 

In 1962, he moved to Seattle to serve as pastor of its oldest and one of its most prestigious black churches, First African Methodist Episcopal (AME). He became a key spokesperson for the African American movement for civil rights during Seattle's 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. 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 and founded the Congress of National Black Churches, Inc. in 1978.