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Thurman Adams, Jr., papers

Identifier: MSS 0619

Scope and Contents

The Thurman Adams, Jr., papers chronicle the personal and professional life of the longest-serving senator (a Democrat from the 19th District) in the history of the Delaware General Assembly.

The collection, which spans the years 1939 to 2012, is arranged into four series: Political career, Awards, Personal and family papers, and the University of Delaware.

Series I. Political career, contains material related to Adams's service on the Delaware State Highway Commission, his numerous election campaigns, his tenure as a state senator, and material related to several Delaware governors.

His legislative career is documented by copies of Senate and House bills, memoranda, legislative guides, newspaper clippings, editorial pieces and political cartoons, drafts of speeches, and judiciary nomination papers. Materials related to his work on legislation include such issues as organ donation, Delaware electric co-op, taxes, and properties.

The Thurman Adams, Jr., papers also highlight how lawmakers balanced duties in the legislature with frequent re-election campaigns. Part of the first series is devoted entirely to materials related to Adams’s election campaigns for the 19th District Delaware State Senate seat. The bulk of the materials are from Adams’s first campaign in 1972 and his first re-election campaign in 1974. Campaign materials include advertisements in local media outlets, including receipts and notes for radio broadcasts, newspaper clippings related to the elections, several maps of the 19th District, polling lists, campaign buttons, and compilations of final results for some general elections. For the most part, the correspondence related to these elections congratulated Adams for his election victories and was written by friends, family, and colleagues.

Series I. also comprises correspondence and papers relating to various Delaware and United States government officials, which provide the researcher with evidence of how state and federal lawmakers maintained professional relationships. There is also correspondence written to Adams from constituents related to a variety of legislative and local issues, as well as correspondence spanning more than forty years from members of the Delaware General Assembly, the Delaware Office of the Governor, the Delaware state court system, and the United States government.

Notable correspondents include Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and Delaware governors Pierre S. Du Pont, Michael Castle, Thomas Carper, and Ruth Ann Minner. The letters written by U.S. Senator (later Vice President) Joseph R. Biden to Thurman Adams, Jr. and his wife Hilda convey their long term friendship.

Series I. also includes pieces of Delaware ephemera, such as campaign and political memorabilia from Delaware government officials and organizations.

Series II. Awards, consists of citations, certificates, plaques, trophies and artwork awarded to Thurman Adams for his outstanding contributions to the State of Delaware and to his community. Included among the files are two tributes read into the Congressional Record by U.S. Congressman Mike Castle, who served with Adams in the State Senate from 1972-1976. There are also awards from the Sons of the American Revolution; the Council of State Governments; Delaware Police Chiefs Council; the towns of Milton and Georgetown, Delaware; the Delaware Farm Bureau; Delaware Health & Social Services; the Delaware State Bar Association; and numerous other organizations.

Series III. Personal and family papers, comprises papers and materials related to some aspects of the personal life of Thurman Adams, Jr., and his family. This small group of material includes biographical information, materials related to Adams’s studies with the Dale Carnegie correspondence school, and some correspondence from family and friends. There are also documents regarding Adams’s involvement in civic and professional organizations such as the Freemasons, the Kappa Alpha Fraternity, and the Union United Methodist Church in Bridgeville, Delaware.

Series IV. University of Delaware, consists of materials related to Adam's undergraduate years at the University of Delaware. Two class notebooks from courses taken by Adams and items which highlight Adams’s collegiate career on the men’s lacrosse team, including Adams’s team helmet, a team photograph, and varsity letter certificates, are available in the collection. In 1996, the University of Delaware honored Adams with the University of Delaware Medal of Distinction, which along with photographs of the ceremony, are included in these papers.


  • Creation: 1939-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-2009


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Democratic Senator Thurman Adams, Jr., (1928-2009) was the longest-serving senator in the history of the Delaware General Assembly. Adams was also the president of T.G. Adams & Sons, Inc., an agricultural feed and grain business in Bridgeville, Delaware.

Thurman Adams, Jr., was born on July 25, 1928, to Thurman G. Adams, Sr., and Bessie Lillian Adams on the family farm in Bridgeville, Delaware. Adams lived continuously in Bridgeville until his death on June 23, 2009. Adams graduated from Bridgeville High School in 1946 and continued his education at the University of Delaware, graduating in 1950 with a B.S. in agricultural education. While at the University of Delaware, Adams earned a varsity letter on the men’s lacrosse team. In 1952, Adams married Hilda McCabe, with whom he had three children, Brent (died 2000), Lynn (Kokjohn), and Polly (Mervine).

From 1961 to 1970, Adams served as the chairman of the Governor's Highway Safety Committee and as a member of the Delaware Highway Commission.

Adams was first elected to the Delaware State Senate in 1972, and serve until his death in 2009. Adams was Senate Majority Leader from 1999 to 2003 and Senate President Pro Tempore from 2003 until 2009. Adams also served on the Senate Executive Committee (chairman from 1977 to 2009), the Senate Agricultural Committee (twenty-two years as chairman), and the Senate Judiciary Committee. As chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, Adams was responsible for overseeing the Senate confirmation process for gubernatorial appointees.

Adams's notable legislative projects include an "Enhanced 9-1-1" emergency telephone system in which the phone number and location of the person making the call is available to the emergency dispatcher. Adams also sponsored legislation to simplify organ donation after his son Brent died in 2000 awaiting a liver transplant. Adams also worked to preserve historic family agricultural properties and protect agricultural businesses throughout Delaware.

Identifying his greatest accomplishments in 1997, Adams cited his work to secure the excellent financial conditions of the state budget, including establishment of the state Rainy Day Fund, the requirement that the General Assembly budget only 98 per cent of anticipated revenues, and the measures which required the state to reduce its level of bonded indebtedness.

In addition to his duties as a senator, Adams maintained his involvement in the family feed and grain business, T.G. Adams & Sons, based in Bridgeville. Adams also served as president of the Eastern Shore Grain Dealers Association.

Adams was active as a Kappa Alpha Fraternity alumnus and was a 33rd degree Mason. He was a member of the Lions Club and the University of Delaware Agriculture Alumni Association, and held positions of director or trustee of the Medical Center of Delaware; the Milford Memorial Hospital; and the Delaware State Fair. Adams belonged to the Union United Methodist Church in Bridgeville, Delaware, where he was an active member of the congregation.

Adams received numerous awards and distinctions, including election to the National 4-H Club Hall of Fame; receipt of the University of Delaware’s Medal of Distinction; and the Distinguished Public Service Award of the national Kappa Alpha Fraternity.

"THURMAN ADAMS Jr." The News Journal [Wilmington, Del], 25 June 2009 (accessed October 2012).Biographical information was also derived from the collection.


7.3 linear foot (12 boxes)

18 oversize folder


Democratic Senator Thurman Adams, Jr., (1928-2009) was the longest-serving senator in the history of the Delaware General Assembly. Adams was also the president of T.G. Adams & Sons, Inc., an agricultural feed and grain business in Bridgeville, Delaware. The Thurman Adams, Jr., papers chronicle the personal and professional life of the longest-serving senator (a Democrat from the 19th District) in the history of the Delaware General Assembly.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Lynn M.A. Kokjohn, Polly A. Mervine, and Brent Adams, Jr., July 2009.

Related Collections in this Repository

MSS 0528, Gwynne P. Smith papers

MSS 0689, Myrna L. Bair papers

MSS 0841, Clarice U. Heckert papers

Shelving Summary

  1. Boxes 1-5: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  2. Box 6: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  3. Box 7: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (15 inches)
  4. Boxes 8-9: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (17 inches)
  5. Box 10-11: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (18 inches)
  6. Box 12: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)
  7. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases
  8. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS vault oversize boxes (24 inches)

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Natalie Baur, May 2010. Updated by Anita A. Wellner, October 2012. Additional encoding, Jaime Margalotti and John Caldwell, March 2020.

Finding aid for Thurman Adams, Jr., papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2020 March 4
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA