Library acquires papers of Thurman Adams, Jr.
Political ephemera from the Thurman Adams Jr. papers, University of Delaware Library.
State Sen. Thurman Adams Jr., with friends Nanette Corey and then-U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Inscribed “To Thurman, The only Senator in Delaware and my good friend. I admire you. Joe 3-15-08.” From the Thurman Adams Jr. papers, University of Delaware Library. Photograph reproduced courtesy of Glazier Photography, Wilmington, Del.


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8:04 a.m., Feb. 9, 2010----The University of Delaware Library has acquired the papers of Thurman Adams Jr., who, at the time of his death on June 23, 2009, was the longest-serving state senator in Delaware history.

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The collection of personal papers and political ephemera is the generous gift of Lynn Adams Kokjohn, Polly Adams Mervine, and Brent Adams, Jr.

Thurman Adams Jr., was the youngest of four children born to Thurman and Bessie Lillian Adams on their family farm near Bridgeville in Sussex County. He earned his bachelor of science degree in agricultural education from the University of Delaware in 1950 and joined his father in family farming and their grain brokerage business, T.G. Adams and Sons, Inc., of which he later served as longtime president.

In 1961, Gov. Elbert N. Carvel appointed Adams to the Delaware State Highway Safety Commission, which was Adams's first experience in government.

Adams was a leader in numerous civic, community, and commercial organizations, and was elected as a Democrat to the Delaware State Senate in 1972. He continued to serve in that seat until his passing, attaining the status of senior senator in 1996.

Adams was senate majority leader from 1999-2003 and was elected president pro tempore by his Senate colleagues in 2003. With 37 years in the Senate, his legislative legacy is extensive, notably in support of family farms and Delaware's agricultural economy. He was particularly proud of his legislation that established Delaware's “Enhanced 911” program, which displays location and contact information for emergency callers.

Adams was longtime chair of the Senate Executive Committee, which oversees the Senate confirmation process for gubernatorial appointments, including judges.

Upon Adams's death, Gov. Jack Markell commented that Delaware had lost “one of its most-respected, dedicated leaders.”

Adams received the University of Delaware Medal of Distinction Award and the Distinguished Public Service Award from Kappa Alpha Fraternity, among many other citations. He was honored by election to the National 4-H Club Hall of Fame and elevation to the 33d Degree in Masonry. With his wife Hilda, Adams personally campaigned for changes to ease the process of obtain organ transplants after the loss of their son, Brent Adams, Sr., in 2000.

The collection is closed pending completion of processing, though selected items from Adams's student days as a lacrosse player at the University of Delaware are included in the current exhibition, “Games People Play: A Historical Perspective.” The exhibition is on view in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery through Friday, June 25.

The Thurman Adams Jr., papers reflect his high standing in many civic groups as well as his stature in the State Senate and state Democratic Party leadership. The Adams papers complement the political and public policy papers of several Delawareans, such as John J. Williams, J. Allen Frear, Jr., Thomas R. Carper, and Gwynne P. Smith.