James “Major” Adams was raised on Chicago's Westside and served in the Army during World War II. When he completed his military service, Adams returned to Chicago and worked for various agencies including Jane Addams' Hull House, one of the city's oldest social and human services programs.
Now, approaching his 90th year, Adams has made a commitment to community service that has lasted a lifetime. To honor this legacy, Adams has been recognized with a 2012 Martin Luther King Drum Major for Service award.
After Adams moved into the Henry Horner Housing Development in 1955, he tapped into his passion for working with at-risk youth and volunteered his time to mentor the housing development's children by providing gang intervention and prevention programs.
This work continued when he joined the staff of the Henry Horner Boys and Girls Club soon after its opening and helped create a drill team that became the Hornets Drum & Bugle Corps, a nationally renowned military-style band.
Over the decades, Adams has had a hand in the development of several Chicago institutions, including the Mile Square Health Center, which provides health care services to the economically challenged Westside area. And in 1996, at age 74, he founded the Major Adams Community Committee (better known in local circles as the MACC), an agency that provides after-school, arts, sports, and mentoring programs for families in his community.
His years of mentoring at Horner influenced many prominent Chicagoans including former NBC 5 news anchor Warner Saunders; psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Parker; Dr. Vaughn Tatum; Sonny Lumpkin; and Maurice and Verdine White of Earth Wind and Fire. Adams' list of honors and awards includes the 1998 National Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting Local Communities.
The Martin Luther King Drum Majors for Service program gives organizations and groups an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate those volunteers who perform extraordinary everyday acts of service with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition. Drum Major awardees receive an award from Corporation for National and Community Service designating that person as a “Drum Major for Service” with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.