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Oscar W. Adams Jr.

Alabama's First African American Supreme Court Justice

Information provided by the Alabama Supreme Court Library
Correlates to Alabama Course of Study: Social Studies 11th Grade Content Standard 12, p. 79

Oscar William Adams, Jr. was born on February 7, 1925 in Birmingham, Alabama, and died February 15, 1997 in Birmingham. Son of a Birmingham newspaper publisher and great-grandson of a member of the Alabama Legislature, he earned his bachelor's degree from Talladega College in 1944. Upon receiving his law degree from Howard University in 1947, he was admitted to the Alabama bar and launched what would become a distinguished legal career that spanned more than three decades. Beginning in the early 1960s, Justice Adams' law firm, Adams, Baker and Clemon, became one of the nation's leading firms handling complex civil rights litigation.

In 1980, Adams was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court by Governor Fob James. In 1982, and again in 1988, he successfully ran for the position and became the first African American in the history of Alabama to be appointed and elected to a statewide constitutional office. The election of Adams signaled an important change in Alabama political life and was a direct legacy of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.