A Gentleman of the Finest Quality: Former TNU President Dr. Homer Adams Passes to Be with the Lord

Steven Hoskins, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion, Trevecca Class of 1986

Homer J. Adams, Ph.D, the ninth president of Trevecca Nazarene University (1979-1991) and the school’s last living president emeritus, has passed away. 

Born July 2, 1921, in Covington County, Al., Adams became a Christian at an early age and followed the Lord Jesus Christ all his days. His own testimony recorded, “Jesus is my Savior, my constant companion in life. He teaches me, corrects and strengthens me, and guides my life. It is a blessed privilege to serve Him.”

Adams died in the peace of Christ and the presence of family in the early hours of May 25, at 99 years of age.

His life was one of service. With distinction he served the Lord, the Church of the Nazarene of which he was a member, and Trevecca Nazarene University.

The story of Adams and his family is steeped in Trevecca’s history. His parents sold their farm in Alabama and came to study with Trevecca’s founder, Reverend J.O. McClurkan, in 1913. A member of the family has attended the school in every decade since. 

Adams himself arrived in the fall of 1939, riding a train from his home in Florida, to attend Trevecca High School. After graduating, he attended classes as a college student from 1940-1943. He then entered the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of gunnery and executive operations officer. He married the love of his life, Beatrice Brake of Birmingham, Al., in 1944. After the Navy, Adams returned to Trevecca College and graduated in the class of 1947. His senior picture in the school’s yearbook, the Darda, described him as a “gentleman of the finest quality” who sang second tenor in the college quartet, read much, was quick-witted and possessed “a smile that was always accompanied by his unthinkable vocabulary.” All who knew him well can attest that those traits remained throughout his life.

Upon graduation, Adams entered Peabody College. He studied there through1953, eventually earning a master’s and a doctoral degree in history, the intellectual passion of his life. He was the first Trevecca graduate to earn a Ph.D. During his time at Peabody, he served as principal at Trevecca High School and taught social studies there. 

Adams was named to the Trevecca College faculty as a professor of history in 1954, and quickly assumed duties as dean of the faculty under Trevecca President Dr. A.B. Mackey. Adams served in that role for a decade. During those years, Beatrice worked to support his studies, and their home was blessed with the birth of their children.

Adams taught history at Trevecca from 1964-1966, and then joined the history faculty of Middle Tennessee State University. In 1967, he was appointed dean of DeKalb College in Atlanta, eventually becoming vice president in charge of the central campus. He served there until his election to the presidency of Trevecca. During his tenure at DeKalb, the school’s enrollment grew from 4,500 to 11,000 students. Meanwhile, he was also a member of the Trevecca Board of Trustees. 

When Adams served as Trevecca’s ninth president from 1979-1991, achievement and advancement were hallmarks of his administration. Upon assuming the office, he quickly secured the school’s future and reputation with the Southern Accreditation Association by leading a “Wipe Out the Debt” campaign to pay off a million dollars in short-term debts. Nazarene churches and districts throughout the Southeast responded to his leadership and gave generously to the cause. Contributions as a whole grew significantly during his tenure, and he received Trevecca’s first million-dollar gift from the Don Jernigan family. 

Throughout Adams’ presidency, the educational reputation of Trevecca was strengthened and new buildings brought new life to the campus. Master’s programs in education and religion were established. The management and human relations degree completion program was launched, an innovative option in its time that allowed non-traditional students to return to college to finish their bachelor’s degrees. The Jernigan Student Center was constructed, as were the Tartar Student Activity Center and the Martin Building, all of which continue to serve the campus well. Adams also renovated the Marks Guest House for Trevecca’s visitors and completed a major restoration of the McClurkan Building, which housed the Religion Department, the bookstore, the mailroom and the college chapel. Upon Adams’ retirement as Trevecca’s president, the college named one of its three original buildings the “Homer J. Adams Administration Building” in honor of his achievements and 30 years of service to the school as professor, dean and president. 

A lifelong Nazarene, Adams was an active member of the Trevecca Community Church of the Nazarene on campus throughout his adult life. He began attending the church when it formed in 1942, ministering among its early song leaders, and he served on the church board for many years. He also served as a member of many district and denominational boards for the Church of the Nazarene, advising and leading, and was a long-term member of the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene that guides the church’s work internationally.

Adams’ love for Trevecca and his work documenting history continued during his retirement years. His heart still beat for the school, and his blood, in the words of longtime professor H. Ray Dunning, “ran Trevecca purple.” Adams was named university historian and wrote several books and historical Trevecca pamphlets, most notably Trevecca Folklore and Tradition (1999), a contribution to celebration of the school’s centennial.  He continued his service on the board of Trevecca Towers, a position he’d held since its inception in the late 1960s. Adams led alumni at gatherings across the Southeast, raising money for the school and often performing with the “Old-Timers Quartet” he created to entertain the crowds. He held regular ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) meetings of Trevecca’s faithful, which included Dr. William Greathouse, another former Trevecca president, and Dr. Bill Strickland, dean of the faculty during Adams’ presidency. They would share stories and pray for the school at the Piccadilly Café on Murfreesboro Road. In 2012, Adams was instrumental in having the campus named a National Arboretum by the Arbor Day Foundation, and he assisted in mapping the beautiful trees and plants that adorn the campus. He remained a great leader and friend who continued to mentor the Trevecca presidents who succeeded him. 

“While his earned degree is in history, Dr. Adams possessed a high familiarity with common sense,” said Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca’s current president. “He was a leader grounded in God, gracious among people, and wise in guiding an institution. The consummate churchman, he served God through education. I miss my friend. He always seemed to know what it was like to walk in my shoes.”

In addition to his many accomplishments and gifts, Adams’ legacy of love for and generosity to Trevecca lives on. Along with his wife, he established the Homer and Bea Adams Scholarship in 2001 to assist students attending Trevecca. In 2018, TNU recognized the couple by establishing the Adams League of Loyal Donors, a society honoring those who have given to the school for at least five consecutive years. Adams, of course, has many faithful alumni and friends among the league’s members. 

Love for Christ and his church, family loyalty, distinguished achievements and sacrificial giving marked the life of Homer J. Adams, Ph.D., and it was a life well lived.  May God bless his memory and may God bless Trevecca, the school he loved.

Adams is survived by his wife of 76 years, Beatrice Brake Adams, and their children, Homer James Adams, Jr. (Atlanta) and Sarah Adams Johnson (Old Hickory, Tenn.) and their families. The family will receive friends at the Mount Olivet Funeral Home, 1101 Lebanon Road, Nashville, on Saturday May 29, from 4-6 p.m. A visitation will be held at Trevecca Community Church of the Nazarene, 335 Murfreesboro Road, Nashville, on Sunday, May 30, from 12:30-2 p.m. A memorial service for Dr. Adams will follow, beginning at 2 p.m.

For those interested, gifts given in memory of Dr. Homer Adams can be made to the Adams Scholarship Fund at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Media Contact: Brian Bennett, bwbennett2@trevecca.edu