The Hon. Thurman Adams, Jr.
Delaware Senate President Pro Tempore Thurman Adams, Jr., 80, passed away peacefully at Bayhealth—Kent General Hospital, Dover, on the morning of Tuesday, June 23, 2009, surrounded by his family.
Senator Adams was born on the Adams family farm near Bridgeville in Sussex County on July 25, 1928, the youngest of the four children of the late Thurman and Bessie Lillian Adams. He grew up working with his father and older brothers on the farm in the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression and World War II. He received his early education in the local public schools, graduating from Bridgeville High School with the Class of 1946. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural education from the University of Delaware in 1950. Following his college years, he returned to Bridgeville, joining his father in the family farming enterprises and grain brokerage business, T. G. Adams & Sons, Inc., of which he was later the longtime president. In 1952, he was married to the former Hilda Marie McCabe of Millville, Delaware. Their union was blessed by three children, Brent, Lynn and Polly. Adams's first experience of government came in 1961, when he was appointed to the old Delaware State Highway Commission by then Governor Elbert N. Carvel. He served on the commission until 1970, and also chaired the Governor's Highway Safety Committee from 1966 to 1969. He was active throughout his adult life in community and civic organizations and served on many boards and commissions. He served as president of the Eastern Shore Grain Dealers Association, trustee and chairman of the board of Bridgeville's Union United Methodist Church, President of Harrington Raceway, and director of Baltimore Trust Company, Milford Memorial Hospital and the Medical Center of Delaware. He was a member of the Bridgeville Lions Club, Hiram Lodge No. 21, A.F. & A.M., and Nur Temple Shrine. The feelings of many of those who knew and worked with Senator Adams in state government were summed up by Delaware Governor Jack Markell , who said on Tuesday, "Delaware lost one of its most-respected, dedicated leaders today." He added that "Senator Adams dedicated most of his life to serving the public and there has not been a law passed in the last 30 years that he did not touch in some way. His legacy will be felt for generations". This was also true with regard to the Delaware judiciary. Among those Senate duties in which he took the greatest pride was his longtime chairmanship of the Senate Executive Committee, in which he oversaw the Senate confirmation process for gubernatorial appointees, including judges. As chairman, Adams wielded significant influence on the membership of the state's judiciary and was very proud of the consistently high marks Delaware's courts receive in national surveys. He was first named to the committee in 1973 and became chair in 1977, serving in that post for the rest of his Senate career. Among the many honors and distinctions he received during his career, several were of special significance. These include his listing in the National 4-H Club Hall of Fame, his elevation to the 33rd Degree in Masonry, the University of Delaware's Medal of Distinction and the Distinguished Public Service Award of the national Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Senator Adams first sought elective office in 1972, winning his campaign for the Delaware State Senate, in which he continued to serve until his passing. In 1996, Adams became the senior member of the Senate and, at the time of his passing, was the longest-serving senator in Delaware history. He served as Senate Majority Leader from 1999 to 2003 and was elected President Pro Tempore by his Senate colleagues in 2003. Among the hundreds of bills he sponsored during his Senate career, was one that stood out in his mind as being among his most notable accomplishments—the legislation implementing Delaware's "Enhanced 911" program and making Delaware one of the first states to have such a system statewide. This bill has been credited with saving hundreds of lives in Delaware. He was also very proud of his many bills designed to preserve Delaware's family farms and the state's agricultural economy. Another major interest in later years of both Senator Adams and his wife, Hilda, who passed away in 2002, were efforts to ease the process of obtaining organ transplants. Their son, Brent Adams, Sr., passed away in 2000 while awaiting a liver transplant. Following his passing, both Senator and Mrs. Adams did everything they could to make it easier for others to receive transplants in a more timely fashion.
Among those family members and loved ones who survive the senator are his daughter and son-in-law, Lynn and Tucker Kokjohn of Rehoboth Beach; his daughter and son-in-law, Polly and Jay Mervine of Bridgeville; his daughter-in-law, Eva Adams of Bridgeville; 7 grandsons, Brent, Jr., Chris and Matt Adams, Drew and Brad Slater, Kyle Kokjohn and Stephen Mervine; 2 step-grandsons, Trevor and Jeremy Kokjohn; 1 great-grandson, Brent Adams, III; 3 great-granddaughters, Emily, Katie and Libby Adams; a step-great-grandson, Riley Kokjohn; his brother, Leon Adams of Newark, DE; his sister, Beatrice Shockley of Millsboro; several nieces and nephews; and his dear friend, Nanette Corey of Bridgeville. In addition to his parents, his wife and his son, he was also preceded in death by his brother, Alvin, and by a grandson.