Remembering James B. Adams
                        
                      Remembering James B. Adams, Acting Director (1926-2020)
 
 

James Blackburn Adams served in the FBI from 1951 through 1979. He was appointed Acting Director of the FBI, serving February 15, 1978 until February 23, 1978. He was born on December 21, 1926, in Corsicana, TX, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a law degree from Baylor University following a period of service in the U.S. Army. After his military service, he became a prosecutor and legislator in Texas. He resigned his seat in the State Legislature to enter on duty with the Bureau on July 9, 1951.

As a Special Agent, James Adams served in the Seattle Division, San Francisco Division, and Administrative Services Division. In 1959, he was appointed Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Minneapolis. He subsequently served in several leadership positions before being appointed Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division in 1972. The next year, he was appointed Assistant Director of the Office of Planning and Evaluation. He was appointed Assistant to the Director/Deputy Associate Director for Investigations in 1974, served as Acting Director in early 1978, and was appointed Associate Director on April 6, 1978, the number two position in the Bureau, through his retirement in May of 1979.

Mr. Adams was awarded the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award in 1978 and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal in 1979. He retired from the Bureau on May 11, 1979 and returned to Texas where he served in various law enforcement related positions in Texas, including the Director of Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which he began on January 1, 1980.  He retired at the rank of Colonel in 1987.

 

Statement from William H. Webster, Former Director, FBI

 

The passing of Colonel James B. Adams, former director of the Texas Department of Public Safety and former FBI Assistant Director, marks the end of a remarkable and courageous career of service to our country.

A Texan through and through, I met Jim when I arrived at the FBI to serve as Director in 1978. His FBI career spanned just short of three decades when he retired from the Bureau and headed to the Texas DPS. 

During the years that we worked together, I was keenly aware of Jim’s superior professional skills, his dedication to the FBI, and his profound love of country. He was a man of great personal integrity. I extend my sympathy to his family and friends. 

 

 

Statement from Steven McCraw, Director, Texas Department of Public Safety

 

Colonel Adams had a storied career in law enforcement, one that was filled with accomplishments and accolades, and he leaves a behind a legacy that still benefits the law enforcement profession today," said Director McCraw. "During his seven-year tenure at DPS, Colonel Adams provided outstanding leadership and fully supported the men and women at DPS who risked their lives daily to protect and serve Texas. After more than 30 years, DPS continues to benefit from his legacy, and on behalf of the men and women of DPS, I extend our sincere condolences to his family.

 

 
 
 See below for memories shared by our members:
 
 
 

As I have stated in the past, I consider James B. Adams to be "The man who saved the FBI". Though small in stature, he was a giant of a man. He saw the need for change in many FBI policies after the death of Director Hoover. He understood the divisive nature of the old guard and the younger revisionists. He was young enough and old enough - and respected enough by both generations to synthesize the differences and rescue a slowly down-sliding FBI and return it to the unified force it needed to be for the American people.

Bill Doran (Retired)
SAC Criminal Division, NYO
OPE 1972 -1974 Under Leadership of JBA

 
 

In 1978, I had the pleasure, along with SSA Danny Coulson, of working for Mr. Adams when he was Deputy Director. Our job was to get the FBI out of Title 7 of the newly-enacted Civil Service Reform Act, which replaced the old Civil Service Commission with the Office of Personnel Management. Title 7 opened vast stretches of the Federal government to being unionized. It was Jimmy Carter's attempt to reward the unions for their political support. The FBI at the time was beginning to investigate unions like the Teamsters. We wanted no part of unions.

We reported directly to Mr. Adams, who was a quiet, thoughtful man, who smoked a pipe. The Bureau benefited greatly from his prior legislative experience in Texas. For about six months, Danny and I were on the Hill every day working the hallways and knocking on doors. Mr. Adams was our Vince Lombardi, calling the plays - we only had to execute them.

It was a great learning experience, an honor, and a pleasure to be associated, ever-so-briefly, with a Bureau legend. We succeeded and the Bureau won that fight, much to displeasure of President Carter, who beneath that pious image was a hard-boiled politician.

Joe Koletar
19
69-1994

 
 

I was a first-time Criminal Division Supervisor at FBIHQ in the Interstate Transportation of Stolen Property, Theft of Interstate Shipment and Aircraft Hijacking Unit when we undertook new initiatives in our program area. We began deploying our own undercover Special Agents (UCAs) and confidential informants (CIs). Using FBI and U.S. Marshal’s Service seized funds, we bought stolen goods from criminals in support of FBI and local law enforcement undercover operations. At the time, Jim Adams was the Associate Director and, often, these undercover buys of evidence were in the tens of thousands of dollars and Director Clarence Kelley’s approval was required. I had to make presentations of the case and investigative plan to our Section Chief, and then to the Assistant Directors of the Criminal and Administrative Services Divisions in turn before reaching Jim’s office. He always, without fail over dozens of occasions, met me with good humor, courtesy, interest, and enthusiasm. Sometimes, the amount was above his approval authority and he would escort me into the Director’s Office where I would repeat the presentation and answer the Director’s questions. Once, Jim cautioned me that Director Kelley had been having a hard time with back pain, and that he would be reclined in a prone position when I was in his office. I offered to return but Jim insisted and told me the Director was still conducting business. Jim accompanied me into the Director’s Office where I found the Director stretched out on the floor. He was always pleased to visit with us Agents and greeted me with a big smile and some jocularity about his immediate situation. I made my case, he agreed with the proposal, and asked me to sit down next to him so that he could use my back to sign the approval document. That was that, and I know that Jim trusted us to do what it took to get our jobs done.

Jim was very well-respected by everyone. I never heard anyone utter a negative word about him. The words used for Jim were always very positive, including some by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Warren Burger, who ate dinner with my wife, Diane and I, at Jim’s huge retirement dinner. He was a superb leader and representative of the FBI through some difficult tumultuous times. I missed him when he was gone from us.


William T. Rice, Jr.
EOD 1/6/69, retired 3/18/95

 
 

Jim Adams was a sterling FBI Agent and one of the most qualified administrative leaders in the Bureau. He was the one to go to whenever you had a very difficult problem. And, he solved it. I knew Jim for over 60 years and always found him to be a man of integrity and honesty. I wish his family heartfelt sympathy. A man like him comes along rarely in ones lifetime.


Homer Boynton

 
 

Associate Director James Adams was the person who put me in charge of the 1976 Koreagate investigation that lasted over two years and required me to go to Seoul Korea two times with the Deputy Attorney General of the U.S., and then accompany Tong Sun Park from Hawaii to DC to testify before a Congressional Committee. I was basically his body guard and directed his activities. Jim gave me Carte Blanche authority for the investigation with the caveat that, if anything went wrong, I would be the one who would hang for it. I told him I fully understood. He authorized a separate room, secretary, and clerical assistant for me. We had a good working relationship and I kept him daily orally advised. At the end of the investigation, I received a nice letter of commendation from the Director and a large incentive award.


Al Meyer

 
 

My first day in the Bureau, November 16, 1964, my class NAC #8 was assembled in the classroom of the Justice Building where the World War II saboteurs were tried and convicted. We had several Bureau officials come in to address the class. One of the most impressive was a rather young and small man from Texas. Jim Adams was the Assistant Personnel Officer and soon had all of us in the class deeply engrossed in the administrative mysteries of the Bureau. The positive impression that Jim Adams made on me that day was deepened when I had the opportunity to work directly for him some years later when he was Assistant Director in Charge of the Office of Planning and Evaluation (OPE) under Director Kelley. I worked on several studies for Jim, but one in particular was very intensive, that being a review and evaluation of the entire Watergate investigation. When I completed the review, with the support of other staff members in OPE, Jim went over the entire review with me; it was obvious that he had read and absorbed the report in its entirety. We went in to present the report to Director Kelley and Jim Adams was superbly prepared to back me up and answer all of the Chief’s many questions. I later worked with Jim when he was Deputy Associate Director for Investigations and then Associate Director for Director Webster. Jim was the very epitome of professionalism and was very instrumental in getting Director Webster off to a very successful tenure as Director.

When he retired, Jim returned to Texas and served as Director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for Texas. His tenure as Director of DPS is looked upon as a period of high performance and professionalism within the Department. It was my great privilege to know and work with one of the most accomplished Agents in the Bureau’s history, James B. Adams of Texas.

Buck Revell
1964-1994  

 
 

First, my condolences to the Adams family on the passing of a truly remarkable man. I was a first office Agent in the San Antonio Division in 1972 and James B. Adams was my first SAC. He had a distinct leadership quality that I rarely encountered in other leaders during my almost 29 years in the Bureau. On Friday afternoon, it was common for SAC Adams to spend time in the Agents bullpen making small talk with the rank and file Agent personnel. It was his way of removing himself from his office environment and getting to know what the issues were effecting the Agents. It was not uncommon for him to take action on issues that were raised during these sessions. At the same time, when it came time to make an executive decision, all Agent personnel squarely respected his judgment and leadership. This fine line of effective leadership was one of many qualities emblematic of James B. Adams.


William R. Young
1972 - 2001

 
 

I was one of the fortunate Special Agents to have served under Jim at FBIHQ. He was a person of integrity who lead the Bureau in difficult times. Jim was a sterling example for those around him, and he left a lasting and very positive mark on the FBI. God bless Jim and his family. 

Terry Knowles

 
 

Jim Adams’ contributions to the FBI are immense. He was served as the FBI’s spokesperson and defender during the Church Committee inquiries. Jim served at that time as Assistant to the Director and Associate Director. The FBI was under attack for prior actions in the intelligence investigative area. With no real background in intelligence investigations, he quickly brought himself up to speed and very ably responded to Congressional criticisms and adjusted FBI operations to answer some of the critics. During this era, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Intelligence Guidelines (Domestic and Foreign) were adopted. He developed a great relationship with Attorney Generals Edward Levy and Griffin Bell and helped make positive changes in the FBI that saw the FBI through those troubled times.


Paul Daly

 
 

When Mr. James B. Adams transferred from FBIHQ to San Antonio, TX, as the SAC, he picked me to drive him around town to become familiar with the area. I was an Electronic Technician in the office at that time. Upon graduation from college, he recommended me for Agent's class and I went on to Quantico as a New Agent in the NAC #75 class. By the time I graduated from New Agent training, Mr. Adams was an Associate Director at FBIHQ in Washington. Shortly before graduation, I asked our training counselor if he could ask Mr. Adams to award my credentials and he graciously accepted to do so. My son was born while I was serving in my first office in San Antonio. As a gesture of my love and admiration for Mr. Adams, we named our first son Jamie.  I will miss him greatly.


Jerome W. Fuselier
Former Special Agent 

 
 

Jim Adams was the SAC in San Antonio in the early 1970s. He was a great man to work for and he enjoyed getting out of the office as often as possible. He liked to be invited to participate in activities "on the street." Going out on arrest situations, he always wanted to have a shotgun. He was very well liked by the personnel of the San Antonio Division and was great at liaison matters with our law enforcement partners.

He had a good sense of humor. One of his gifts, as he was being sent back to Headquarters, was a step stool one would have for young children to reach the lavatory. He took that gift in stride and expressed appreciation for it. In those days, Jim was a cigar smoker and enjoyed Travis Club made in San Antonio. Occasionally, I would have subpoena trips to testify about cases I worked at WFO before moving to San Antonio. I would take him a box of Travis Club cigars and, if it was grapefruit season, he would get some Texas Ruby Red grapefruit.  

After retiring from the Bureau, he became Colonel (Director) of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He did an excellent job there and the troops liked his leadership. On one particular case, he came to the scene where a Texas Ranger had been shot and killed. Another Ranger killed the bad guy. Jim gave a very impressive speech to all of the law enforcement officers.

Jim was a member of the San Antonio Chapter and we all enjoyed visiting with him when he was able to attend a meeting. He lived about 80 miles from San Antonio. WE will miss him.

Fritz Bohne
1970-1996
Chairman, San Antonio Chapter

 
 

Jim Adams was my SAC in the San Antonio Division in the early 1970s. He was an inspiring and unforgettable leader for a young FBI Agent. I spent many hours with him as he shared with me numerous insightful stories of his experiences as a high ranking official at FBIHQ. He greatly increased my pride in the real FBI and made me a better Agent. I still have the personal note he sent me when my now 46-year-old son was born.


Ken Lanning
1970-2000

 
 

In 1978, I had a five County road trip assignment in north central Colorado when Jim Adams came to visit the Denver Division. He had not seen the Rocky Mountains and the boss asked me to give him a tour. So, I spent a day driving Jim Adams around the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I found him to be a very down to earth and delightfully personable man, as we spent the day visiting about the Bureau and even deeply personal matters. It was a great day for me to find one of our top leaders in the FBI to be such a warm human being. Rarely do street agents get the opportunity to know our top leaders on such a personable basis. I was most fortunate to get a chance to do that with both John Otto and Jim Adams.  Rest in Peace


Jim Horn
1970-1996

 
 

In the late ‘70s, I was Section Chief of the Liaison and Analysis Section of the Intelligence Division. The Legal Attaché foreign liaison program was in there. Adams was number three in the hierarchy, I believe, as Executive Assistant Director in charge of the Investigative branch. He was a key executive with schedule packed days. I would not normally have dealt directly with him, but he was quite interested in foreign ops and I had worked abroad for nine years. A creature of habit, Jim Adams started out his day tending to the cactuses and other succulents that gave life to his sunny office. His Executive Assistant suggested that I let her know when I needed to call on him. When he filled the watering can, she called. I dashed up to the 7th floor and popped in. He was in a good mood early in the morning and I found it easy to brief him on a situation and get a really sound decision on the spot. Jim was a true gentleman and very capable executive. He taught me to correct my shortcomings and prepare for FBIHQ bureaucratic niceties that I blissfully escaped working alone abroad. A true Texan, he retired from the FBI and became the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety - de facto head of the Texas Rangers. I am not sure that was a foreign assignment, but I bet he loved it.   

Jean Gray

 
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