He was a retired pastor of Detroit’s Hartford Memorial Baptist Church.
Adams headed the church for more than half a century, in that time building its congregation from several hundred to nearly 10,000 members.
Adams was known for using the church’s resources to foster economic development on property near his church. Hartford Memorial Baptist was founded in 1917.
At the time, Adams recalled being inspired to spur real estate development by the family of Martin Luther King Jr.
“I had been to Atlanta and seen what the Kings had done around Ebenezer Baptist Church. That gave me the idea that we should own all the land we could around Hartford Memorial. As a result, most of the land around the church belongs to the church, so that it makes economic development all the more possible,” he said.
Adams was born in Detroit in 1936 and graduated from Cass Technical High School. After spending two years at Fisk University, the historically Black liberal arts college in Nashville, he transferred to the University of Michigan, graduating with honors. He then enrolled in Harvard Divinity School and studied under such theological giants as Paul Tillich, Amos Wilder, and Reinhold Niebuhr.
In mid-career, Adams returned to Harvard and became a tenured professor at Harvard Divinity School.