Oscar W. Adams, Jr., Legal Pacemaker in the Heart of Dixie


ACLS HBCU Faculty Grants


History and Political Science


In 1980, a gubernatorial appointment made a Talladega College and Howard University educated civil rights lawyer named Oscar W. Adams Jr. the first Black member of the Supreme Court of Alabama. When voters elected him to the court in 1982, he thus became the first Black citizen to occupy a statewide office in Alabama via election. Those achievements extended Adams’ largely unknown history of meritorious professional and civic service. Among other endeavors, he in 1956 cofounded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. In 1961, Adams helped litigate a case that established a defendant’s constitutional right to effective representation at every stage of a legal proceeding. In 1963, Adams argued a case before the Supreme Court of the United States whose ruling set a precedent for the proper way to address an individual in a court proceeding. In 1967, Adams cofounded the first ethnically integrated law firm in Alabama. Moreover, as local counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or LDF, Adams litigated more LDF cases than any other lawyer in the state. By highlighting such efforts, this book project solidifies Adams’ position as one of the most unsung legal pacemakers (trailblazers) in the Heart of Dixie (Alabama).