Oscar William Adams, Jr. (February 7, 1925 – February 15, 1997) was the first African-American Alabama Supreme Court justice and the first African American elected to statewide office in Alabama (including the Reconstruction era).
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Adams was a 1940 graduate of A. H. Parker High School. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Talladega College in 1944, and a law degree at Howard University in Washington D. C. in 1947. He was admitted to the Alabama Bar that year and launched his own private practice, specializing in Civil Rights cases, often on behalf of Fred Shuttlesworth's Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. During 1963's Birmingham Campaign Adams was a member of the Central Committee that met at the A. G. Gaston Motel to plan demonstrations.
Adams became the first African American to join the Birmingham Bar Association in 1966. In 1967, he partnered with white attorney Harvey Burg to form the state's first integrated legal practice. The firm he later founded with James Baker and U. W. Clemon (Adams, Baker and Clemon) was one of the foremost law firms to litigate Civil Rights cases in the 1960s and 1970s.
Adams was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court on October 10, 1980, by Governor Fob James. He won re-election in 1982 and 1988. He taught classes in appellate and trial advocacy at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. He retired from the bench on October 31, 1993, in order to spend time writing a memoir. Governor James appointed Ralph Cook to finish his term.
Adams married twice. He fathered three children (Gail, Oscar III and Frank) with his first wife, the former Willa Ingersoll.*
Adams died from an infection related to cancer at Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham. He was survived by his children, ten grandchildren, and his second wife Anne-Marie. Gadsden's Oscar W. Adams Elementary School was named in his honor in 1983. He was inducted into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2005 and to the Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens in 2008.
- Noble, Holcombe B. (February 18, 1997). "Oscar Adams, 72, a Pioneer As Alabama Top Court Justice". The New York Times.
- "Justice Adams Announces Retirement; Circuit Judge Ralph Cook is Appointed". Alabama Court News. October 1993.
*Willa Ingersoll is the correct spelling of her name.
- Oscar W. Adams, Jr profile at "Alabama Moments in American History". Alabama Department of Archives and History