Source: Obituary, to be published | Jim Campbell | May 22, 2017
Ben Adams, a man at home in board rooms, state houses, and on stage, passed away yesterday, May 22, 2017 from complications after strokes. He was with his wife Connie McKay Adams, and his three children. He was 83.
His life paralleled the life of that of his adopted home town, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he came from Nashville to live in the late 1950s, just as the city was formerly incorporated. He started his engineering business, Adams Craft, Herz and Walker (ACHW), in 1960. He raised his family. He worked tirelessly to make Oak Ridge a better place to live, to work, and, yes, to play.
“Ben Adams was an integral part of the Oak Ridge community, and we will miss him greatly,” said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. “Honey and I extend our deepest condolences to his family.”
Lieutenant Governor and long-time Tennessee State Senator Randy McNally said, “Ben was extremely helpful in promoting business and industry in the community. He was instrumental in working for better relations between state and local governments. He was a recognized force in the organization of the City of Oak Ridge and in both Roane and Anderson County. Ben was responsible for many positive changes. He will be greatly missed.”
“Ben was a successful engineer and very active in the community,” says Lou Dunlap, who worked with Adams in her role as president of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce and later on as a member of City Council. “But I will always remember him for his keen sense of humor, his ability to remember and tell jokes well, and his love of “pickin and singin” – particularly at the Museum of Appalachia Festivals. I feel fortunate to have been friends with him and Connie for many years.”
Adams married Connie McKay Adams, the daughter of the then publisher of The Oak Ridger, and they have three children and eight grandchildren.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 1956, Ben spent three years as an officer of the United States Navy. One year after his honorable discharge, Ben moved to Oak Ridge from his home in Nashville and went into private practice with the late George Crouch. Crouch & Adams, Inc., an engineering firm evolved into the multi-disciplined architectural, engineering, planning, surveying firm of Adams Craft Herz Walker, Inc.
“When George and I started the firm in 1960, it was our vision to build an Oak Ridge based firm capable of meeting the needs of a rapidly growing community, as well as supporting the U.S. Department of Energy work at Y-12, X-10, and K-25 plants,” said Adams on his retirement in 2010, 50 years after he started it. “Over the years, we have been privileged to have designed some of the city’s landmark properties such as Jackson Plaza Towers, Flatwater Grill and the new Oak Ridge High School.”
Ben Adams has been firmly dedicated to the growth and development of the Oak Ridge community, evidenced by his active participation in the many state and area civic associations.
“He is so well rounded,” said Jesse Noritake, Adam’s colleague at the Roane Anderson Economic Council, in an interview with The Oak Ridger in 1988. “He has a lot of originality. He doesn’t do things the way other people do. And he’s a doer. When he makes up his mind to do something, it gets done. He’s willing to lend his talents in whatever way you need them to get a job done.”
Adams is past President of Tennesseans for the Arts, past president of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce (1980), a past President of Roane/Anderson Economic Council, now known as the East Tennessee Economic Council; 1999 recipient of the Muddy Boot Award; a past president of the Oak Ridge Arts Council and Oak Ridge YMCA; past President of the Oak Ridge Rotary Club, and past Chairman of the Oak Ridge 40th Anniversary Committee, among other accolades and honors.
“I have a great appreciation for the arts in general, and specifically what they can do for a city,” Adams told The Oak Ridger in 1988.
The Nashville native grew up listening to the opera at his mother’s knee, he said at the time. “Grand Ole Opry?,” he was asked. “No. Classical opera. It’s one of my great loves.”
But he was well known locally for his finger-picking, particularly at the Museum of Appalachia at special events, or on anyone’s back porch.
He served as emcee of Stage Two at the annual Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia for 35 years. He loved music, particularly country, bluegrass and grand opera, and was an avid singer and guitar player. From his teenage years, he had a band that played gigs around Nashville, and in later years he could always be counted on to bring his guitar to gatherings of family and friends and provide evenings filled with music, singing and laughter. He headlined one night at the Exit In in Nashville.
Adams also served a six-year term on the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB). ORSSAB is a federally appointed citizens’ panel that provides independent advice and recommendations to the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office on its Environmental Management Program in Oak Ridge.
“I just loved working with that man,” said DOE’s David Adler. “Ben was a very active and highly valued member of the Site Specific Advisory Board, contributing heavily to early watershed environmental decisions that now guide cleanup activity on the Oak Ridge Reservation. Ben had a unique talent for teamwork, contributing his best while ensuring that other participant’s voices were heard and considered.
“I’ve never enjoyed working with a board member more than I enjoyed working with Ben,” said Adler. “He was a wonderful man to share time with.”
“Ben had an enormous zest for life in every way, and it enriched the lives of all who knew him,” said close friend Pat Postma. “He had a gleeful sense of humor. He loved parties and gatherings, planned or unplanned. He loved travel with family and friends and put considerable effort in orchestrating how to get the most fun out of any venture.
“His talent with the guitar was a joy in his own life but even more to others,” Postma added. “Young children watched enchanted as he played and sang. Young and old friends were drawn closer together by the informal, sit-on-the-floor group singing sessions he enabled.”
“Ben Adams is one of the truly great people of Oak Ridge,” said Jim Campbell, President of East Tennessee Economic Council. “Whether he is running a meeting, playing his guitar on someone’s back porch, promoting the arts, or writing a business proposal, Ben has always been about making Oak Ridge a better place to live, to work, and to play.”
Over the course of his career, Adams has participated in hundreds of topographic surveys, boundary surveys and engineering surveys throughout the City of Oak Ridge area and for companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Crown American Corporation, South Central Bell and agencies such as the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee Department of Transportation and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Manuel Herz, Ben’s partner at ACHW said, “since I joined the firm in 1974, Ben has been more than a business partner, he is a close friend.”
Adams is survived by his three children and their spouses: Elizabeth “Beth” McKay Adams and David Barnett Scott of Nashville; Benjamin Strickler Adams, Jr. and Hollis Mussler Adams of Mooresville, N.C.; and Nancy Adams-Linn and Scott Linn, Jr. of Oak Ridge.
He has six grandchildren: Andrew and Karin Scott, Hollis and Benjamin “Bo” Adams III, and Klara and Jackson Linn.
Survivors also include a brother, John Adams, and his wife Carol, of Katy, Texas; and three sisters, Karin Adams Stewart and Rosalie Adams Crispin, both of Nashville, and Mary Adams, and her husband Dr. Andy Wiley, of Red Bluff, Calif., as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.
His elder brother, Alfred T. Adams, Jr., died earlier.
He is also survived by a brother- and sister-in-law, Jim and Cyndi McKay of Ten Mile, and a sister-in-law, Nancy McKay Richards of Tallahassee, Fla. and a brother-in-law, Bill Phillips, of Kingston.
Born Nov. 14, 1933 in Nashville, he was the son of Chancellor Alfred T. and Karin Hughes Adams, both now deceased.
He was a graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy, where he played football and was named to the All-City team. He attended Vanderbilt University on a U.S. Navy scholarship, and was also a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Upon his graduation with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering in 1956, he was commissioned an ensign and served three years in the Navy, including serving as chief engineer of a destroyer. He was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant Junior Grade.
He was a registered professional civil engineer and a member of Tau Beta Pi. He was also a registered land surveyor and a registered landscape architect.
He was a former member of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge and served as president 1969-1970. He later became a member of the Breakfast Rotary Club.
He designed and built a cabin on Watts Bar Lake from old hand-hewn logs salvaged from two cabins and a dogtrot. For more than 40 years the cabin has been and continues to be a special gathering place for family and friends.
Honorary pall bearers: Glenn Greer, Pat Postma, Jim McKay, Bill Phillips, Ridley Wills, Manny Herz, Tom Hill, Pete Craven and John-Rice Irwin.
The body is to be cremated. A memorial reception will be held at a later date.
The family requests that any memorials be in the form of gifts to the International Friendship Bell project, via checks payable to the Oak Ridge Rotary Community Fund (memo line “Bell Project”), Attn: David Carr, P.O. Box 6331, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, or the Emory Valley Center Capital Campaign, P.O. Box 5328, Oak Ridge, TN 37831