Adams was born in Fort Chimo, Quebec on June 22, 1934. Educated at northern Quebec mission schools, Adams became an electrician, and eventually owned a number of businesses in different industries around Canada. Adams served for two terms as the chairman of the Rankin Inlet hamlet council, and in 1970 became a member of the Northwest Territories Territorial Council (now the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories). In spring 1977, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau decided that an Inuk should be appointed to the Senate and dispatched Warren Allmand, the Minister for Northern Affairs, to interview potential candidates. Adams was not excited about joining the Senate upon being asked by Allmand - in fact, he joked that he did not even know what the Senate was, asking the Minister, "What's the Senate?" However, upon being advised of a Senator's annual salary of approximately C$60,000, far more than Adams' electrician's pay of $7,500 a year, he seized the opportunity. Adams was appointed as a Senator for the Northwest Territories by Governor General Jules Léger on the advice of the Prime Minister on April 5, 1977, and is a member of the Liberal Party.
In 2009, he left the Senate upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. At that time, he was the longest-serving current member of the Canadian Senate, and had served over 32 years in Parliament without ever having faced an election campaign, as Canadian Senators are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, not elected.
By 1997, Adams had founded several businesses, including Kudlik Electric Ltd., Kudlik Construction Ltd., Rankin Inlet's Nanuq Inn and Ottawa's Umingmak Expediting Ltd. Adams is also president of Polar Bear Cave Investments, a company that owned the Nanuq Inn until its closure in 2003. As of 2009, Adams' company still owed approximately C$350,000 in unpaid interest to the Nunavut Business Credit Corporation, a Crown corporation. The initial loan was taken out to fund the opening of the Nanuq Inn. According to Adams, the Corporation was considering writing off the debt prior to its headquarters' relocation from Cape Dorset to Iqaluit.
Adams married his wife, Mary, in the late 1970s. The pair met when the latter travelled to the Northwest Territories to find work as a home economist. The couple have an adult son, Isaac. Adams did not know his father, Nelson, until the two met in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1997. Nelson had lived in the North for five years as one of five Newfoundlanders employed by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1931, and had not returned since. Despite the elder Adams having been convinced that the high-profile Willie was his son since 1977, when he read about the younger Adams' appointment to the Senate, he made no attempt to contact him, thinking that "he has his own life." Through family connections, the pair reunited in 1997.
- Willie Adams, Inuk, 1934-
- Willie Adams – Parliament of Canada biography
- Webster, Jacqueline (March 13, 1997). "After 63 long years, Willie Adams meets his father". Fredericton, New Brunswick: Nunatsiaq News. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
- "Nunavut senator nears retirement". CBC News. December 22, 2008. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
- Senator Willie Adams retired on June 22, 2009.
- "Nunavut's next senator should be elected". Nunatsiaq News. July 3, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
- "Nunavut senator waits for word on $350,000 NBCC debt". CBC News. May 19, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
|Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories|
|MLA Keewatin South
|Parliament of Canada|
James Alexander Lougheed
William Dell Perley
James Hamilton Ross
|Senator Northwest Territories