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Dr. Billie Wright Adams

Medical professor and pediatrician Dr. Billie Wright Adams was born in Bluefield, West Virginia. Her father, William Morris Wright, was a country doctor who accepted chickens and potatoes in lieu of cash for his services. Adams received her B. S. degree from Fisk University in 1950. The following year, she received her M. S. degree in zoology from the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Intending to begin a career in research, but not wanting to be isolated in the laboratory, Adams enrolled in medical school at Howard University. After receiving her M.D. degree in 1960, she focused her efforts on pediatric medicine, completing her residency at Cook County Children's Hospital. She then completed a fellowship in hematology at Cook Country Hospital from 1963 to 1964.

From 1964 to 1967, Adams served as a research associate in the Department of Hematology at the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research. She began teach as a clinical instructor at the Chicago Medical School in 1967. Adams served as an attending at Michael Reese Hospital in the pediatrics department in 1970 and then was appointed chief of the Pediatric Hematology Clinic at Mercy Hospital. Two years later, she joined the faculty of the University of Illinois in the Department of Pediatrics as a clinical assistant instructor. In 1976, she was promoted to clinical associate professor. Adams became the project director in 1980 of a United States Department of Health and Human Services funded grant for a Pediatric Primary Care Residency Program at Mercy Hopsital. From 1981 to 1987, Adams served as the Assistant Program Director of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics. Her professional responsibilities over the years have also included acting bureau chief of the Chicago Department of Health, Bureau of Community and Comprehensive Personal Health; former president of the Chicago Pediatrics Society and coordinator of a medical student training program at Cook County Hospital.

Adams was recognized many times for her dedication to pediatric care. In 1997, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics named her Pediatrician of the Year. She received the 1999 Chicago Medical Society Public Service Award and the 2012 Timuel Black Community Service Award from the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Adams served on the board of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. Adams is the widow of Frank Adams and the mother of Chicago attorney Frank Adams, Jr.

Dr. Billie Wright Adams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 17, 2002.

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Interview Date


Last Name


Marital Status


Middle Name



The Toya School

The Young Street School

Genoa Junior High School

Genoa High School

Fisk University

Indiana University

Howard University

Speakers Bureau


First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season



West Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

West Virginia Mountains, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State


Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Watermelon, Fruit

Short Description

Medical professor and pediatrician Dr. Billie Wright Adams (1935 - ) was the program director in the Department of Pediatrics at Mercy Hospital. Adams also served as an associate clinical professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine while maintaining a private practice.


Cook County Children's Hospital

Mercy Hospital

Chicago Department of Health

Cook County Hospital

University of Illinois College of Medicine

Favorite Color

Black, Blue

Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Billie Wright Adams's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams describes her family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her grandparents</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her sister</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her family's educational background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams describes her father's civic activities in Bluefield, West Virginia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams describes her experience in grade school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her experience at Genoa High School in Bluefield, West Virginia</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her experience at Fisk University and her decision to become a doctor</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about some of the writers and entertainers who visited her childhood home</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her childhood experiences</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her experience at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her missed opportunities at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about raising her son, Frank McClinton Adams, Jr.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her experience in pediatrics</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her experience at Cook County Hospital</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Billie Wright Adams talks about diversity at Cook County Hospital</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Billie Wright Adams talks about the New Cook County Hospital</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Billie Wright Adams describes the type of student she treasures</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Billie Wright Adams talks about how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Billie Wright Adams talks about her regrets</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Billie Wright Adams lists her favorites, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Billie Wright Adams lists her favorites, pt. 2</a>







Dr. Billie Wright Adams describes her father's civic activities in Bluefield, West Virginia
Dr. Billie Wright Adams talks about her experience at Cook County Hospital
So we knew that it was very important that we have training but even more so that we did community service. My dad [William Morris Wright] was very civic minded and was active there in the city and at the college. He likewise became interested in politics so he did not want an elective office but he did serve as chairman of the democratic branch for the Negroes as they called it, living in Southern West Virginia and was very supportive. And also at that time there was a very active Lincoln University [Chester County, Pennsylvania] alumni club. And as you can imagine in that small state because West Virginia is a small state, that there were few alumnists from Lincoln but the lovely thing about it is that we had Langston Hughes who came to our home. Langston Hughes had graduated from Lincoln and came and spent time at our home and read and we have a book that he signed. Somehow another, the other books were lost in moving but we just of course didn't value it as much. Also Thurgood Marshall had been a graduate of Lincoln, Pennsylvania who had come to Bluefield [West Virginia]. It was not that far away from D.C. and some people would come there sort of as a respite, just to get a little rest. But we did have the sponsorship of the Lincoln Alumni like Horace Mann Bond who was the president of Lincoln, the youngest one, [HM] Julian Bond's father who came to our home. And then when my father [William Morris Wright] died, came there to eulogize my dad on the part of his activity at Lincoln University. So they had people from the capital, Charleston [West Virginia], some of the smaller communities who all got together. And because it was a college town and Bluefield was named as the gateway to the billion dollar coal fields, we didn't have coal mines right in Bluefield but within a radius of twenty some odd miles were coal mines. But in our community we had coal operators, coal owners, the railroad was big. In fact Bluefield was the center for the Norfolk and Western Railroad and that the purpose of that mainly was to transport the coal from the coal fields to other parts going east. And so my dad knew all of those, knew a lot of the people in the community. And I was getting ready to say, with it being the billion dollar coal fields, we also had a lot of musicians who would come there. Some of the big bands we remember. Duke Ellington would bring his band because at the college the sororities and fraternities and the alumni groups would sponsor them in addition to the fact they would go to their one night stands and what we called the coal mines. So I just have good memories of having those people who were in and out of our home and then with my father being a physician, some of the band members who would become ill when they would travel that area, my dad would see them as patients.$With your career, so within the context of knowing the condition of these children and here, and you're working with these children every day, that's what I wanted to know how you deal with attaching and detaching?$$The attachment part is very easy because you always hope that the child will be the mechanism by which this will be a better world. That the child will recognize, respect, the child will then go on to explore their possibilities and again to help us, as I said to make this a better world. So it's easy to attach to children and children respond to you. They can certainly see love and respect. Now the detachment you ask about is a bit more difficult because you know that you have to let go because what is that saying that it is a student and children act as teachers to you. That it is the wise teacher who recognizes that their students can teach them. And I try to be a student of medicine. I can be very opinionated and at times my son [Frank McClinton Adams, Jr.] says judgmental. I hope not so much but absolutely, positively I know that I have some very strong beliefs. It takes a whole lot to get me detached from those beliefs. And I do remember when I first went to Cook County [now called John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County] as an intern and of course if you remember that at that time it was one of the largest hospitals in the world at, I think was it Belleview, but it was the largest hospital with like 3,000 beds. I really became attached to that hospital because I saw it as a place where one could give service and one could learn. I learned so much from my patients. I learned on so many levels and I had made a commitment that I wanted to remain a student of medicine. And yet, I felt having attended Howard Medical School [Howard University School of Medicine] which was a wonderful experience for me. But when I first went to County there were only two black interns my year. I was the only black female at that time and there was another gentleman there who was a graduate of one of the local schools who found it a little difficult to bond with other blacks. But there were some who were in their residency but they interned and trust me that was a lot of work, physical work and a lot of emotional work, but so rewarding. And I learned so much that it stayed with me the rest of my life. And when I rotated as an intern through pediatrics that was then I decided that I wanted to specialize in pediatrics. And I was so impressed with the quality of care, it wasn't perfect but the quality of care and all the good that could be done at that community. That time when I first came, many of the black physicians were not permitted to join the staff of a major hospital and it was then in Chicago [Illinois] that we were--they were instituting the lawsuit--