Processing of Bishop John Hurst Adams Collection is Underway

By Melissa Develvis

Melissa Develvis is a graduate assistant at the South Caroliniana Library. She is currently processing the John Hurst Adams collection, which will open later this year.

The personal and professional papers of John Hurst Adams, a now-retired Senior Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, span his career within the church as well as his many years as an educator, civil rights leader and activist, and participant in numerous organizations that assist African American communities in the United States. A Columbia, South Carolina native, Bishop Adams was born in 1927 to Charity Nash Adams and Reverend Eugene A. Adams, an A.M.E. minister, social activist, and educator whose papers are also held in the South Caroliniana Library. Adams grew up in the Waverly District and attended Booker T. Washington High School before leaving to pursue higher education, eventually becoming a professor at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio and then the president of Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas.

In 1962, Bishop Adams became the pastor of First AME Church in Seattle, where he chaired the Central Area Civil Rights Committee alongside members of the NAACP and Seattle Urban League. He became the 87th Bishop of the AME Church in 1972 and a Senior Bishop in 1988. By the time of his retirement in 2004, Adams had overseen five episcopal districts: Texas, the Washington, D.C. area, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida and the Bahamas. Bishop Adams now lives with his wife, Dr. Dolly Desselle Adams, in Atlanta, Georgia. They have three children— Gaye D. Adams-Massey, Jann Hurst Adams, and Madelyn Rose Adams-Cobb —and many grandchildren.

The Bishop John Hurst Adams collection heavily features his time as a Senior Bishop and includes minutes from the Council of Bishops, General Board, and Judicial Council of the AME Church as well as the proceedings of his work in specific districts. It also includes documents regarding the AME Church’s many educational and health programs as well as the Richard Allen Service and Development Agency, which Adams helped to found.

In addition to his work within the AME Church, Bishop Adams founded the Congress of National Black Churches (CNBC) to establish dialogue within the African-American community across denominational lines. The founding of the CNBC and its projects involving education, the black family, and the Church Insurance Partnership Agency are all featured in this collection. Also included are Adams’s work in opposing apartheid in South Africa, his membership to the National Black United Fund, his work as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Interdenominational Theological Center and other historically black colleges and universities, and The Black Community Crusade for Children through the Children’s Defense Fund.

This collection also includes the papers of Dr. Dolly Desselle Adams, who served for five years as the president of the Black Women’s Agenda, and was the eighth president and now serves on the Executive Board of The Links, Incorporated. Both organizations are made up of women of color dedicated to serving African American women and communities of African descent, respectively. This collection will prove invaluable to those interested in religious history, civil rights history, and African American history.

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