Oscar William Adams Jr. was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice who was appointed in Alabama. He also became the first African-American elected to the statewide constitutional office through full term elections. Adams also proceeded many civil rights cases in the court in his career as a lawyer and was also the part of the first African-American law firm established exclusively in the state.
Born on February 7, 1925, in Birmingham, Alabama, Adams was the eldest son of Oscar William Adams and Ella Virginia Adams. He did schooling from different public schools in Birmingham that included A.H. Parker High School and graduated from the Talladega College in the year 1944 with a successful degree in Philosophy. It was racial segregation that prohibited African-Americans from attending the law school in Alabama. This was the reason why Adams attended the Howard University School of Law in Washington D.C. and completed his graduation in 1947. He then got admission the Alabama State Bar and started his legal career that spanned more than five decades. During this, he married Willa Ingersoll Adams and had three children. Sadly Willa died in 1982 and Adams later remarried Anne-Marie Bradford.
During his career, Adams took proceeding of many civil rights and labor cases. His clients included very Conference famous Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttleworth’s Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, the Southern Christian Leadership and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His firm also tackled cases related to discrimination and desegregation and also cases linked to voting rights.
On July 8, 1966, Adams got the opportunity to become the member of the Birmingham Bar Association, which is a local professional organization of attorneys. Adams was running his lawsuit until in 1967 he joined hands with the white attorney Harvey Burg to create state’s first integrated law practice.
After spending twenty years in front of the bench, in 1980, Adams was appointed as the Justice of Supreme Court by Governor Forrest James to fill the remaining two years of Justice James unexpired tenure. With this appointment, Adams became the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court in Alabama and continued his hard work towards cases pertaining civil rights, discrimination, and many high-end cases. On October 31, 1993, Adams retired from the bench and was replaced with the second African American Justice of Supreme Court of the state, Ralph D. Cook. Oscar William Adams died on February 15, 1997, in, Birmingham, Alabama due to complications in cancer.
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