“Coach” Herman Adams was one of the most competitive athletes in the history of Booker T. Washington High School. 

A little-known fact of his proficiency in sports is that Adams was on the 1977 Master’s Olympic Competition relay team that won first place for the United States in Gothenburg, Sweden. 

Adams was an amazing 40 years old at the time.

Saturday (May 7), BTW alumni, former students, family and long-time friends gathered at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Westwood, where he was a member, to celebrate the life of Adams, who died on April 27. He was 85.

Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Westwood was the venue for the service to celebrate the life of legendary Coach Herman Adams. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Adams was born the eldest of four children to T.C. and Mable Louise Bowen Adams on Feb. 1, 1937, in Memphis. Coach showed extraordinary athletic prowess, even as a youngster. 

By the time he entered high school, his moves on the football field garnered notice. In his sophomore year, Adams was selected as one of WDIA “Gridiron Greats For 1954.”

After graduating high school in 1956, Adams attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he majored in both health and Physical Education, and Biology. He joined the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

While at Lincoln, Adams met a “great beauty,” Emma, whom he would later marry and call his “bride” for 56 years. 

“My friend and I were at the gym to practice our gymnastics,” said Emma Adams. “It was obvious we didn’t really know what we were doing. So, this guy comes walking through the gym, and he stops and watches us for a bit. He was a PE major, so I’m sure he could see we didn’t have a clue. 

“So, he comes over and starts showing us some things. And I was just wondering, ‘Why is this guy over here to help us?’”

Emma Adams admitted thinking, “He’s pretty cute.” That was the beginning of their life-long romance, she said.

After graduating from Lincoln, Adams returned to Memphis and began his coaching career at Lester Junior High as athletic director and head football coach. 

His teams won four city championships and several district championships. 

His girls’ track teams also excelled, taking them to compete in Atlanta and Raleigh, North Carolina.

His continuous nurturing of both students and former students earned him the endearing “Coach” moniker throughout his life. 

Adams sponsored many trips to colleges for his students as he encouraged them to pursue higher education. 

Adams participated in the National Summer Youth Sports Program (NYSP) at University of Memphis for 35 years. He took young people to see the Engineering Program at Tennessee State University (TSU) to inspire them.

Adams was honored by Chickasaw Junior High School with the naming of the gymnasium “Herman Adams Health & Athletic Complex.”

In 2012, he was presented with the President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement at Lincoln University.

Adams was sports manager of the Ridgeway Country Club of Memphis for more than 55 years. Tuesday (May 10), the club held a memorial service for Adams, where both staff and golfers came to pay their respects, Emma Adams said.

Adams had many “children.” But, to his union with Emma Adams, there were two, a son Herman Jerome Adams and a daughter Angela Nicole Adams.