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Thurman Adams, Jr., papers


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

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.

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.

  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)

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

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

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2020 March 4
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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,

Collection Inventory

Del State Highway Commission, 1961-1970.
Box 1 Folder F1
Elections--1972--campaign, 1971-1972.
Box 1 Folder F2
Elections--1972--newspaper clippings, 1971-1972.
Box 1 Folder F3 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder a
Elections--1972--election results and events, 1972-1973.
Box 1 Folder F4
Elections--1972--correspondence, 1972.
Box 1 Folder F5
Elections--1974--campaign, 1973-1974.
Box 1 Folder F6
Elections--1974--newspaper clippings, 1974.
Box 1 Folder F7 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder a
Elections--1974--election results and events, 1974.
Box 1 Folder F8
Elections--1974--correspondence, 1974.
Box 1 Folder F9
Elections--1974--guest book, 1974 November 5.
Box 1 Folder F10
Elections--1976, 1976.
Box 1 Folder F11
Elections--1978--campaign, 1978.
Box 1 Folder F12
Elections--1978--correspondence, 1978-1979.
Box 1 Folder F13
Elections--1978--final results, 1978.
Box 1 Folder F14
Elections--1982, 1982.
Box 1 Folder F15
Elections--1986--newspaper clippings, 1986.
Box 1 Folder F16 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder b
Elections--1986--correspondence, 1986.
Box 1 Folder F17
Elections--1990, 1990.
Box 1 Folder F18 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder b
Elections--1992, 1992.
Box 1 Folder F19 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder c
Elections--1996, 1996.
Box 1 Folder F20 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder c
Elections--1998, 1998.
Box 1 Folder F21 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder d
Elections--2000, 2000.
Box 1 Folder F22 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder d
Elections--2002, 2006, 2002, 2006.
Box 1 Folder F23 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder e
Box 1 Folder F24 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder f
Elections--election maps, undated.
Box 1 Folder F25 Mapcase C3-D-14 Folder e
Elections--sample ballots, undated.
Box 1 Folder F26 Box 9 Folder 26
Elections--Adams election realia, undated.
Box 1 Folder F27
Elections--other candidates, 1972-2000.
Box 1 Folder F28
Senate--Bills, 1976-2006.
Box 1 Folder F29
Senate--Bills, 2007-2009.
Box 1 Folder F30
Senate--nominations, 1981-2009.
Box 1 Folder F31
Senate--agriculture legislation, 1981.
Box 1 Folder F32
Senate--legislation--education, 1974-1977.
Box 1 Folder F33
Senate--legislation--electric co-op, 2001-2006.
Box 1 Folder F34
Senate--legislation--environment, 1973.
Box 1 Folder F35
Senate--legislation--organ donation, 1999-2002.
Box 1 Folder F36
Senate--legislation--property, 2007.
Box 2 Folder F37
Senate--legislation--taxes, 1986-2008.
Box 2 Folder F38
Senate--legislation--transportation, 1973-2007.
Box 2 Folder F39
Senate--speech & invocations, 1970-2003.
Box 2 Folder F40
Senate--editorials, 1972-2008; undated.
Box 2 Folder F41
Senate--legislative guides and directories, 1972-1984.
Box 2 Folder F42
Senate--legislative guides and directories, 1985-2009; undated.
Box 2 Folder F43
Senate--correspondence--address lists and name lists, 1972-1978; undated.
Box 2 Folder F44
Senate--correspondence--Joseph Biden, Jr., 1972-2009.
Box 2 Folder F45
Senate--correspondence--Delaware state legislators, 1976-2007.
Box 2 Folder F46
Senate--correspondence--Delaware state courts, 1974-2009.
Box 2 Folder F47
Senate--correspondence--Delaware governor's office, 1974-2008.
Box 2 Folder F48
Senate--correspondence--United States government officials, 1978-2008.
Box 2 Folder F49
Senate--correspondence--constituents, 1973-2000.
Box 2 Folder F50
Senate--correspondence--constituents, 2001-2009; undated.
Box 2 Folder F51
Senate--correspondence--invitations, (1973-2008).
Box 2 Folder F52
Senate--correspondence--thank you notes and acknowledgements, 1972-2007.
Box 2 Folder F53
Senate--correspondence--Miss Delaware contest, 2000.
Box 2 Folder F54
Senate--correspondence--Boys/Girls state and youth and government, 2005-2009; undated.
Box 2 Folder F55
Senate--photographs, 1960-1980.
Box 2 Folder F56
Senate--photographs, 1981-1990 .
Box 2 Folder F57
Senate--photographs, 1991-2008.
Box 2 Folder F58
Senate--photographs w/Joe Biden, 2008.
Box 2 Folder F59
Senate--photographs and graphics--President Clinton visits, 1993, 1998.
Box 2 Folder F60
Senate--photographs and graphics--Delaware State fair, circa 1990-2007.
Box 2 Folder F61
Senate--clippings, 1972-2007.
Box 2 Folder F62 Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder g, h, i, j
Senate-- commemorative newspapers, 1987-2001.
Box 2 Folder F63 Mapcase C3-A-6 Folder a, m, n, o Mapcase C3-A-7 Folder p
Senate--event programs, 1973-2004.
Box 3 Folder F64
Senate-- Del. organizations, 1972-2009.
Box 3 Folder F65 Box 10 Folder F65
Senate--ephemera--executive planner, 1980.
Box 3 Folder F66
Senate--ephemera--Delaware state senate portfolio, undated.
Box 3 Folder F67
Senate--ephemera--George Frick lyrics, 1991-1992.
Box 3 Folder F68
Senate--ephemera--name tags and badges.
Box 3 Folder F69
Senate--ephemera--signs, business cars, and stationary.
Box 3 Folder F70
Senate--governors--Sherman W. Tribbitt, 1972-1973.
Box 3 Folder F71
Senate--governors--Ruth Ann Minner, 2000-2009.
Box 3 Folder F72
Senate--governors--prayer breakfast, 1973-2006.
Box 3 Folder F73

Citations and certificates, 1972-2008; undated.
Box 3 Folder F74 Box 8 Box 10 Folder 74
Woodbridge School District Superintendent's award for community service, 2006.
Folder 4
Scope and Contents

Two parts: award and stand

NFIB/Delaware, Guardian of Small Business award, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996.
Folder 4
Scope and Contents

statue award

Vegetable Grower's Association of Delaware, service award, 1994 January 13.
Folder 4 Folder F75A
DHSS- division of state service centers, service award, 1997 October 22.
Folder 4 Folder F75B
Delaware State Bar Association, Liberty Bell award, 2002.
Folder 4 Folder F75C
First State Coon Hunter's Club, Inc., plaque, 2003 July.
Folder 4 Folder F75D
Ellendale Community Civic Improvement Association, Inc., 2006 September 16.
Folder 4 Folder F75E
Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation, 2006.
Folder 4 Folder F75F
Sussex County Farm Bureau, appreciation plaque, 2009 October 9.
Folder 4 Folder F75G
Nemour's Health's Prevention Services, campaign champion, undated.
Folder 4 Folder F75H
Lifeway Church of God plaque, undated.
Folder 4 Folder F75I
New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, 2008.
Folder 4 Folder F75J
Baltimore Trust Company, service award, 1999 March 16.
Folder 4 Folder F75K
Plaques- Georgetown, 2000.
Box 5 Folder F75L
Delaware Association of Conservation Districts, 2006.
Box 5 Folder F75M
Trophy- Positive Growth Alliance, 2007.
Box 5 Folder F75N
Council of State Governments plaque of appreciation, 1998 August 9-12.
Box 7
The Lower Delaware Shield and Square Club Honorary Lifetime Membership, 1988 August 26.
Box 7
National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Silver Good Citizenship medal, 2003 April 26.
Box 7
Delaware Community Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of Delaware plaque of appreciation, 2002 March 19.
Box 8
The Delaware Police Chiefs Council Legislator of the Decade plaque, 2000 May 3.
Box 8
Chamber of Commerce of Milton Distinguished Service plaque, 1993.
Box 9
University of Delaware Agriculture Alumni Association plaque of appreciation, undated.
Box 9
Delaware Farm Bureau distinguished service to agriculture plaque, 1993 November 30.
Box 9
Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. medal of achievement, 2001 April 07.
Box 11
Framed painting of Milton Main Street by Julie Baxendell, inscribed to Senator and Mrs. Thurman Adams, Jr., 1995 April 22.
Box 12 Folder F75

Biographical, 1997.
Box 3 Folder F76
Thurman Adams, Senior, 1949-1989.
Box 3 Folder F77
Education, 1940-1958.
Box 3 Folder F78 Mapcase C3-D-14 Folder e
Religious, 1959-2000; no date.
Box 3 Folder F79
Family and friends, 1940-2002.
Box 3 Folder F80 Mapcase C3-A-6 Folder q
32nd degree Freemason plaque, 1951 April 26.
Box 12 Folder F81
Bridgeville, 1989-2006.
Box 3 Folder F82 Mapcase C3-D-14 Folder e
Delaware agriculture, 1985-2001; undated.
Box 3 Folder F83 Mapcase C3-A-6 Folder r
Orioles opener, 1992.
Box 3 Folder F84
Ellendale plaque, 2005.
Box 5 Folder F85A
Lacrosse helmet.
Box 5

Course notebook, 1949-1950.
Box 3 Folder F86
Course notebook, 1950.
Box 3 Folder F87
Lacrosse, 1947-2002.
Box 3 Folder F88
Correspondence, 1972-2012.
Box 3 Folder F89
Awards-- Medal of Distinction (University of Delaware), 1996.
Box 3 Folder F90 Box 6

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