Alma Adams

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Alma Adams
Alma Adams.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th district
Assumed office
November 12, 2014[1]
Preceded by Mel Watt
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 58th district
In office
1994 – November 12, 2014
Preceded by Herman Gist
Succeeded by Ralph C. Johnson[2]
Personal details
Born Alma Shealey
(1946-05-27) May 27, 1946 (age 68)
High Point, North Carolina, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Residence Greensboro, North Carolina
Alma mater North Carolina A&T State University, Ohio State University
Profession Professor, college administrator

Alma Shealey Adams (born May 27, 1946) is an American politician who represents North Carolina's 12th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. A Democrat, Adams served as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the state's 58th House district from her appointment in April 1994 until her election to Congress. A college administrator and Art professor from Greensboro, Adams is known for the many distinctive hats that she wears (she claims to own 900).[3] Adams won the 2014 special election in North Carolina's 12th congressional district to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mel Watt, thus becoming the 100th woman serving in the 113th Congress. She won election to a full two-year term at the same time.[4] [5]

Early life and education[edit]

Adams was born on May 27, 1946 in High Point, North Carolina. Her parents were Benjamin Shealey and the former Mattie Stokes. She graduated from West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, in 1964. Adams received her B.S. degree in 1969 and her M.S. degree in 1972, both from North Carolina A&T University and both in Art Education. She continued her studies to receive her Ph.D. in Art Education/Multicultural Education from Ohio State University in 1981.[6][7]

Electoral history[edit]

State legislature[edit]

Adams was originally appointed to the North Carolina House District 26 seat in 1994 to replace Herman Gist, who died in office. The district is located in Guilford County and includes most of southeastern Greensboro. She had previously already announced that she was going to challenge Gist for that seat in the Democratic primary that year.[8] After being appointed to the seat, Adams faced conservative businessman and retired engineer O. C. Stafford in the Democratic primary. Stafford was a perennial candidate that had run for various offices, sometimes as a Democrat and other times as a Republican. He previously had challenged Gist as a Republican in the 1992 general election. In 1994, running as a Democrat,[9] he was defeated by Adams in the primary. Adams went on to win a full term in the general election, beating Republican Roger G. Coffer. She faced a rematch with Stafford in the general elections of 1996 and 1998 when Stafford ran as a Republican.[10] Adams won both elections.[11][12] Next, the 2000 election saw Adams again faced with no primary. She went on to defeat Republican real estate broker Jim Rumley in the general election.[13][14]

In 2002, after redistricting, Adams' seat was changed from the 26th district to the 58th district. Her only challenger that year was Libertarian lawyer David Williams who actually withdrew from the race in October because he was moving to Colorado.[15] His name still appeared on the ballot, but Adams won with nearly 86% of the vote.[16]

Adams has been challenged for her seat for many years by Republican legal assistant and party activist Olga Morgan Wright.[17] Wright has run for the seat held by Adams in nearly every election since 2004. Adams defeated Wright and Libertarian challenger Walter Sperko with 66% of the vote in 2004.[18] The next election saw Adams once again faced with no primary and going on to defeat Wright in the general election 66%–34%.[19] In 2008, another rematch saw Adams defeat Wright 71.35%–28.65%[20]

In 2010, Adams was challenged in the Democratic primary by Ralph C. Johnson. She defeated Johnson with 76.56% of the vote.[21] Adams next faced Republican Darin H. Thomas in the general election, beating him 63.15%–36.85%.[22] In 2012, Adams once again did not face any primary opposition and again faced Olga Wright in the general election. This time Adams won with an even wider margin, 79.86%–20.14%.[23]


In April 2013, Mel Watt, the only congressman to have served the 12th District since its creation in 1993, was appointed as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Adams was one of the first to announce that if Watt were confirmed, she would run in the ensuing special election. After Watt was confirmed in December, Adams formally filed paperwork to run in both the Democratic primary for a full two-year term in the 114th Congress and the special election for the balance of Watt's 11th term.[24]

It was initially thought that Adams was at a geographic disadvantage in the five-way primary for both the special and regular elections (held on the same day). Adams is from Greensboro, but the bulk of the district's population is in Charlotte. However, the three Charlotteans in the race split that region's vote. This allowed Adams to win both primaries with approximately 44 percent of the vote, a few thousand votes over the 40 percent threshold to avoid a runoff. She faced Republican Vince Coakley, a former television and radio broadcaster from Matthews, in both the general and special elections, which were held on the same day in November. However, the 12th is a heavily Democratic district with a majority-black voting population and a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+26, and Adams was overwhelmingly favored in the general election.

Adams is the second woman of color to represent North Carolina in the House. The first was Eva Clayton, who represented much of eastern North Carolina from 1992 to 2002.

Legislative career[edit]

Adams was previously a member of the Greensboro City School Board from 1984 to 1986 and a Greensboro City Council member from 1987 until her appointment to the house seat in 1994.[6][8]

In 2008, Adams was elected to a second term as chair of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus.[25]

She was vice-chair of the Government Committee in the state House[26] and previously has been chair of the Appropriations Committee as well as vice-chair of the Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.[6]

Other work[edit]

Adams has been a professor of art at Bennett College, in Greensboro as well as the director of the Steel Hall Art Gallery.[6]

In 1990, Adams helped co-found, with Eva Hamlin Miller, the African American Atelier, an organization established to advance awareness and appreciation for visual arts and cultures of African Americans.[27]

She is currently the chairperson of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation which gives out scholarships to students who are attending one of North Carolina's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Adams is divorced, the mother of two children.[6][7] She is well noted for the many distinctive hats that she wears.[29]


  1. ^ USA Today
  2. ^ State Board of Elections
  3. ^ NPR
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e The North Carolina Manual 2009-2010. Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Secretary of State. 2009. p. 365. Retrieved January 18, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Beckwith, Ryan Teague. "Alma Adams". Raleigh News & Observer. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Barstow, Thomas A. (March 31, 1994). "Alma Adams Gets Gist's Seat". Greensboro News & Record. 
  9. ^ "O. C. Stafford: Running as a Democrat". Greensboro News and Record. January 27, 1994. p. B8. 
  10. ^ Alexander, Lex (October 14, 1998). "Rematch Set for District 26". Greensboro News and Record. p. B1. 
  11. ^ "NC House" (PDF). 1996 General Election Results. North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  12. ^ "House 26" (PDF). 1998 General Election Results. North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  13. ^ "A Key Year in the House". Greensboro News and Record. October 30, 2000. p. A8. 
  14. ^ "House District 26" (PDF). 2000 General Election Results. North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Greensboro Lawyer is Dropping Out of House Race". Greensboro News and Record. October 9, 2002. p. B2. 
  16. ^ "2002 General Election Results" (PDF). North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Olga Wright Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  18. ^ "2004 General Election Results" (PDF). North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  19. ^ "2006 General Election Results" (PDF). North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 119, 2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  20. ^ "2008 General Election". North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ "2010 Primary Results". North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  22. ^ "2010 General Election". North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  23. ^ "2012 General Election Results". North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  24. ^ Cahn, Emily. "Roll Call: Watt Confirmation Kicks Off North Carolina Special Election". Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  25. ^ News & Observer: Adams to chair Black Caucus again
  26. ^ "Committee Assignments 2013-2014". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Background". African American Atelier. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  28. ^ "About the NCLBCF". NC Legislative Black Caucus Foundation. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  29. ^ Hairston, Otis L., Jr (2003). Black America Series: Greensboro, North Carolina. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1525-6. 

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