Bishop and college president John Hurst Adams was born November 27, 1927 in Columbia, South Carolina to Charity Nash Adams, a homemaker and Reverend Eugene Avery Adams, an African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) minister and educator. Adams graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, South Carolina and in 1947 earned an A.B. degree in history from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Subsequently, he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) degree and Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) degree from Boston University School of Theology in 1952 and 1956, respectively. Adams also studied at Harvard University and Union Theological Seminary, as well.
As a seminary student, Adams was assigned to the pastorate of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Lynn, Massachusetts. Upon graduating, he served on the seminary teaching faculty at Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce University in Ohio. In 1956, Adams was selected to serve as President of Paul Quinn College, Waco, Texas during which time he also served as campus pastor to all the students. In 1972, Adams was selected as the 87th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church after a prophetic ministry at First A.M.E. Church in Seattle, Washington and Grant A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles, California. At the time of his retirement in 2004/2005, Adams had served as Bishop of five separate Episcopal Districts to include his home district of South Carolina from 1992 to 2000. He was Senior Bishop of the A.M.E. Church from 1988 until his retirement.
Adams served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Allen University, Edward Waters College and Morris Brown College. In addition, he served as transitional Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Atlanta University Center. He founded and was the Chairman Emeritus of the Congress of National Black Churches, Inc. (CNBC). Moreover, Bishop Adams is the initiator of Executive Management Training for Black Church Leaders and Chairman of the Institute of Church Administration and Management (ICAM) Board of Trustees. He was active with the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies, Transafrica, National Black United Fund, King Center Development Board and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Adams was the husband of Dr. Dolly Deselle Adams of New Orleans, Louisiana. They had three adult children and eight grandchildren.
Adams passed away on January 10, 2018 at age 90.