Clergy, Civil Rights legend the Rev. Dr. Clyde Adams crosses over at 102

| February 27, 2017
The Rev. Clyde Adams

The Rev. Dr. Clyde Adams

Biographical and obituary information courtesy of Union Baptist Church

FORT WAYNE—A local giant of the clergy and Civil Rights Movement made his transition last week.

The Rev. Dr. Clyde Adams, pastor emeritus of Union Baptist Church, passed on into the glorious Kingdom of God in the early morning hours of Feb. 21 at the blessed age of 102, marking what many call the end of an era. The Rev. Dr. Adams was the last of an openly activist breed of Fort Wayne spiritual leaders from the heyday of the city’s Civil Rights struggles.

Adams stood tall, not just in his elegant and always proper physical bearing but as a spiritual, intellectual and activist giant.

“God stands as it were a handbreadth off, leaving his creatures room to grow in.”—Robert Browning

Born in Cherry Valley, Arkansas on Jan. 1, 1915, Clyde Adams flourished amidst family and friends throughout his elementary school years. When it became time to enter high school, the young man moved east to Ohio where he graduated from East Night High School in Cincinnati. While attending the University of Cincinnati, young Adams tested the diversity of various subject areas; that early sampling was evident in his broad knowledge base, keen insight and analytical skills.

Religion soon became the primary focus in his student life, so he moved on to Michigan Baptist Theological Seminary and School of Religion in Detroit where he earned a degree in 1945. Added to his basic preparation, further study at the Ministerial Institute and College in West Point, Mississippi brought Adams an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Sacred Literature.

From simple beginnings, a young man of industry and commitment dedicated himself to God and to others. Adhering to Robert Frost’s words, “I am not merely a teacher, I am an awakener,” Adams prepared for his role as a man of achievement, a man who would make a difference.

“Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.”—Plato

The Rev. Dr. Clyde Adams was known not only for his steadfast devotion to delivering the word of God but also as a tireless Civil Rights champion.

The Rev. Dr. Clyde Adams was known not only for his steadfast devotion to delivering the word of God but also as a tireless Civil Rights champion.

The state of Ohio held more this young man of God than early pastorates, for it was there the Rev. Adams met and married Cordia Mae Jones. Their union of nearly 60 years produced four children: sons Joseph and John and daughters Gloria Jean and Karen. The younger Adamses reflected the strong values, firm direction and tireless work ethic learned from their caring parents. The fabric of a long-lasting marriage and successful parenting allowed the Rev. Dr. Adams and his wife to serve as positive examples for those seeking guidance.

“Who builds a church with his heart

“And takes it with him everywhere

“Is holier far than he whose church

“Is but a one-day house of prayer.”—Morris Abel Beer

The Rev. Adams first took the pulpit in the small town of Addyston, Ohio, north of Cincinnati and led that congregation for five years. He served on the City Council in that community, an indication of his great interest in civic affairs that rapidly would develop over his many years of pastoral service. From Addyston, the popular young minister moved to the Macedonia Baptist in Toledo, Ohio, where he led the church for 10 years and made significant contributions as president of the local NAACP chapter. In the years before Civil Rights became the anthem of the land, the Rev. Adams was in the forefront of progress for black citizens. Under his leadership, hotels and restaurants were integrated, the police department and sheriff’s office were opened to all and the transportation areas—both bus and taxicab—became arenas of equality. Further, during the Toledo years, a black woman became one of the secretaries in the Lucas County Clerk’s Office, a first for her race and her sex. All of these advancements were spearheaded by the young minister bent on a civic mission.

In 1950, Adams came to Fort Wayne to serve the people of Union Baptist Church, then located at 421 Breckenridge St. For nearly 50 years, he affecte the face and fate of Fort Wayne with his progressive thinking and enriched the hearts and souls of his flock with his inspiring ministry.

Progress for his people was always the Rev. Adams’ goal but sharing God’s word was his daily mission. Under his industrious leadership, a number of Union Baptist Church improvements materialized. New parking lots, a van offering senior citizen transportation, a computer classroom, the birth of the Head Start Program and the GED study classes ar but a few of his innovative efforts. As a contribution to his city’s social service scene, the Rev. Adams founded the local chapter of Frontiers International, a blend of business and professional men, whose farsightedness brought the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to Fort Wayne six months before his assassination. Through Adams’ leadership, the Frontiers raised more that $6,000 to support the Rev. King’s philosophy and efforts to realize total equality.

Once again, as in Toledo, the Rev. Adams led Fort Wayne’s NAACP chapter, bringing swift social change. Working with the Urban League, he and the late William Watson led the courtroom fight to desegregate a restaurant on Main Street and then moved to totally integrate local hotels, banks and hospitals. His premier civil rights coup, however, was the launching of a boycott against Fort Wayne Community Schools, which brought about the integration of the elementary programs. Working with  the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Rev. Adams was instrumental in opening classes for children in a church setting, resulting in federal funding of local elementary schools to become questionable. Adams was one of a number of socially conscious citizens to initiate and achieve a long-needed equity. The public school system now stands fully integrated based upon the early efforts of Adams and those he inspired.

The Rev. Adams never halted his concern at the schoolhouse door but always directed his efforts toward gainful employment for those willing to work but in need of training and counseling. In 1978, he was at the forefront in establishing an Opportunity Industrial Center (OIC) in Fort Wayne and from 1978 through 1984, with the assistance of Mayor Bob Armstrong, some 300 individuals were actively recruited and trained for jobs. Eighty percent of those given help came from the welfare rolls.

The Rev. Adams’ awards are numerous and significant. In 1985, he won the coveted Ecumenical Service Award for being a positive instrument in human relations and understanding for providing leadership in interracial cooperation, for uniting clergy for action, for aligning churches and community and for exemplifying Christian life in his city.

The Liberty Bell award is another significant award given to Adams. Presented by the Allen County Bar Association each Law Day, the recipient must be a citizen who contributed to the justice system by fostering a better understanding of the legal system and one who works well with judges, lawyers and police.

Related to the Rev. Adams’ involvement with the legal system is his rehabilitative program, Once Church-One Offender Inc. Founded in 1984 with the cooperation of the Honorable Thomas Ryan of Allen Circuit Court and committed to the moto “Transforming Lives Through The Power of Christian Community,” this highly successful effort in advocacy provides an alternative to overcrowded, expensive jails housing non-violent offenders. Under the Rev. Adams’ leadership, spiritual guidance and keen insight, numbers of persons who might have continued their non-productive lifestyle have been rehabilitated by the inclusion of church in their spiritual lives and vocational and educational guidance contributing to their personal success. One Church-One Offender is further evidence of the Rev. Adams’ caring, concern and unwillingness to merely stand by when work is to be done.

Union Baptist Church grew and prospered under the Rev. Adams’ leadership. Its reputation as a House of God’s Word has led former Senator Richard Lugar to recommend church proceedings be recorded in the Congressional Record.

From the pulpit, the Rev. Adams delivered a message strong in its impact on everyday living, symbolic in the guideposts it provided and colorful in its reflections of this citizen of the world. Along with his longtime companion and best friend, wife Coria, travels to Western Europe, the Near East, the Orient North Africa and the Holy Land furnished the eloquent pastor with example, illustration and rich reference in his delivery of the spiritual story.

As members not only of his congregation but the community at large explain, “We are blessed he has spent time in our company.”

The Rev. Adams leaves to cherish his memory: his two sons, Joseph and John other relatives and a host of members and friends of Union Baptist Church. He was preceded in death by his loving wife Cordia and his two daughters, Gloria and Karen.

Funeral service is 1 p.m., Feb. 28 at Union Baptist Church, 2200 Smith St., with viewing from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Feb. 27 and 12 noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Church.

Arrangements were by Carmichael Funeral Home.

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Category: Civil Rights, Community, History, Obituaries, Spiritual Matters

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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