Adams, Brock, 1927-2004

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1927-01-13
Death 2004-09-10
English

Biographical notes:

Attorney, U.S. Congressman and senator, cabinet official

From the description of Brock Adams papers, 1947-1998 (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 123949514

Brockman (Brock) Adams was born in 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Adams served in the United States Navy, 1944-1946, graduated from the University of Washington in economics in 1949, and received a law degree from Harvard in 1952. He practiced law in Seattle, served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, 1961-1964, and then won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Adams, a Seattle Democrat, was re-elected six times. During his career in the House, he served on the Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Revenue and Financial Affairs, Banking and Currency, and Agriculture Committees, becoming chairman of the House Budget Committee in 1974. President Jimmy Carter appointed him Secretary of Transportation in 1977, and in 1979 he resigned and resumed the private practice of law in Seattle. In 1985 Adams won a bid for the U.S. Senate. Shortly after he launched his re-election campaign in 1992, eight anonymous women accused the senator of sexual misconduct. Adams denied the allegations but withdrew from the race and retired from public life at the conclusion of his Senate term. In his Senate career, Brock Adams championed women's issues and senior citizen concerns. He supported a number of environmental protection issues, focusing particularly on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Adams opposed Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr., in many aspects of foreign policy, especially regarding U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War. Brock Adams died in 2004 at age 77.

From the description of Brock Adams photograph collection, circa 1920-1992 (bulk 1959-1992) [graphic]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71835754

Brock Adams was born January 13, 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from the University of Washington at Seattle, in 1949, and received a law degree from Harvard Law School, in 1952. Adams served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, and was admitted to the Washington state bar in 1952, opening a private practice in Seattle, Washington. He taught law at the American Institute of Banking from 1954 to 1960, and served as United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington from 1961 to 1964. He was elected as a Democrat to the House and served six terms beginning January 3, 1965. He was chairman for the newly created Budget Committee during the 94th Congress. On January 22, 1977, Adams resigned to become the fifth Secretary of Transportation, serving from January 23, 1977 to July 20, 1979. While Secretary, Adams challenged the automobile industry to make dramatic changes in design, including increased fuel efficiency and mandatory air bags. During his tenure, the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 became law. After resigning his Cabinet post, he resumed law practice, this time in Washington, D.C., where he was a lobbyist for CSX Corporation and other railroad carriers. On November 4, 1986, he was elected as a U.S. Senator from Washington, defeating incumbent Slade Gorton. He served one term from January 3, 1987, to January 3, 1993, he chose not to be a candidate for reelection in 1992 after eight women made statements to The Seattle Times alleging that Adams had sexually harassed them. Following a ten-year battle with Parkinson's disease, he died at his home in Stevensville, Maryland, on September 10, 2004.

From the description of Adams, Brock, 1927-2004 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10611432

Brockman (Brock) Adams was born January 13, 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. Adams served in the United States Navy from 1944 until 1946 and graduated from the University of Washington in 1949 with a degree in economics. He received his law degree from Harvard University in 1952.

Adams went into private practice in Seattle, where he also taught law at the American Banking Institute. As a result of Adams's involvement in John. F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington in 1961. He held this position until 1964, when he campaigned for a seat in the House of Representatives. Adams, a Democrat, represented the greater Seattle area and was re-elected six times.

During Adams's career in the House of Representatives, he served on several committees, including Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Revenue and Financial Affairs, Banking and Currency, and Agriculture. Adams became chairman of the House Budget Committee in 1974. His expertise regarding transportation issues led to his appointment as Secretary of Transportation by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Adams resigned his House seat and worked in Carter's cabinet until his resignation in 1979. Adams then returned to Seattle to enter private law practice.

In 1985 Adams ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Slade Gorton, winning Gorton's seat in an upset victory. Shortly after Adams launched his re-election campaign in 1992, the Seattle Times published a front-page story in which eight anonymous women accused the senator of sexual misconduct. Adams denied the allegations but withdrew from the re-election race and retired from public life at the conclusion of his Senate term.

In his Senate career, Brock Adams championed women's issues as well as those of senior citizens. He took a conservationist stance on many environmental issues, focusing particularly on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Adams also opposed Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr., in many aspects of foreign policy, especially regarding United States involvement in the Persian Gulf War.

Brock Adams died in 2004 at his home in Maryland. He was 77 years old.

From the guide to the Brock Adams photograph collection, circa 1920-1992, 1959-1992, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

Brock Adams was a liberal Democrat whose record of public service spanned almost 40 years. He served in both houses of the U.S. Congress and as Secretary of Transportation under President Jimmy Carter.

Brockman Adams was born on January 13, 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia, but grew up in Portland and Seattle. Upon graduation from Seattle’s Broadway High School in 1944, he enrolled in the University of Washington. He interrupted his studies to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he served for two years. He returned to the University in 1946 and graduated summa cum laude in 1949 with a degree in economics. During his senior year he served as President of the Associated Students of the University of Washington and was the first student to both serve in that post and receive the President’s Medal of Excellence as the University’s top scholar. After receiving a law degree from Harvard University in 1952, Adams entered private practice in Seattle.

Adams entered electoral politics in 1958 with an unsuccessful challenge of King County Prosecutor Charles O. Carroll. He was an early organizer for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign and eventually chaired Kennedy’s Western Washington organization. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Adams U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. Adams resigned this position in March 1964 to run for Congress. In November he was elected to represent Washington’s Seventh Congressional District, the south side of Seattle and its southern suburbs, Renton and Kent. In this area are the major Boeing manufacturing plants. He was reelected six times by ever-increasing margins and served on the following committees: Interstate and Foreign Commerce; District of Columbia; Revenue and Financial Affairs; Banking and Currency; and Agriculture.

Adams' record on social issues was solidly liberal. He was an advocate of civil rights, the 18 year old vote and the Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1967 Adams broke with President Lyndon Johnson over his escalation of the Vietnam war. In 1969 he urged President Richard Nixon to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He condemned the bombings of North Vietnam and was one of the 85 Congressmen who supported the October 15th 1969 Vietnam War Moratorium march. In 1971 he called for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of the year.

The two issues with which Adams was primarily concerned during his tenure in the U.S. House were transportation and economic policy. As chairman of the subcommittee on Transportation and Aeronautics, Congressman Adams worked to strengthen the nation’s railroad system. In 1973 he sponsored the Shoup-Adams bill which saved Northeastern railroads and restructured them into a viable system. In 1966, with Senator Magnuson, he sponsored legislation to relieve a national box car shortage and in 1974 introduced the Rail Freight Transportation Improvement Act to make available more rail equipment. Adams was also a proponent of rapid transit and introduced legislation to provide federal assistance to cities for design and construction of mass transportation facilities. Along with other members of the Washington State delegation, he pushed unsuccessfully for a government loan to Boeing for development of the Supersonic Transport (SST). During the energy crisis in 1974, Adams introduced legislation to ration fuel.

Adams was outspoken in issues involving the economy and the federal budget. He was an advocate of tax reform and proposed a minimum tax on wealthy individuals and corporations. As a member of the Steering and Policy Committee of the House Majority in 1974, he helped develop the Democratic position on the economy.

Adams was involved in a bitter battle to reform the House District of Columbia Committee, which was the governing body for the District. The Committee had for years been controlled by a conservative Southern faction. Motivated by concern for the problems of urban decay in the nation’s capitol, Adams succeeded, in 1973, in guiding through Congress a bill that gave the District a measure of home rule.

Adams helped to craft the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The law called for the creation of a Budget Committee in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and required that Congress create an overall budget before passing spending or revenue legislation. Although the law did not require the new process to be inaugurated until 1976 for the 1977 fiscal year, Congress chose to write non-binding budget resolutions in 1975 to guide spending for the 1976 fiscal year.

Adams ran as the liberal caucus’ candidate for chairman of the new House Budget Committee in the spring of 1974, but he was defeated by Al Ullman of Oregon. Ulmann, however, soon resigned to take over as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Adams won the race to succeed him. In implementing the new budget process, the new chairman had to contend with a sharply divided House. Republicans were unhappy with high levels of spending on non-military programs while liberal Democrats were upset over cuts in spending on social programs. After a series of contentious battles, Adams was able to push the first budget resolutions through the House with the very slimmest of margins.

Adams worked on behalf of Governor Jimmy Carter in his bid for the presidency in 1976 and served as executive director of Carter’s Washington State campaign. President Carter subsequently appointed Adams, who had developed an expertise in many transportation issues in the House, Secretary of Transportation in his new administration. Adams resigned his House seat in January 1977.

Adams’ tenure as Secretary of Transportation was marked by several well-publicized policy disagreements with the White House. President Carter came out early and enthusiastically for airline deregulation. Adams, who had spoken out against deregulation while in Congress, advocated a much more cautious approach to what he would call “regulatory reform.” Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman and pro-deregulation economist Alfred Kahn, rather than Adams, would be the architect of the Administration’s airline strategy. However, Adams, with his legislative experience and personal connections on Capitol Hill, would play an important role in the eventual passage of the landmark Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, legislation that spurred subsequent efforts to deregulate a host of other industries.

There were also policy differences in the area of energy, another top Carter Administration priority. Adams advocated that transportation initiatives that reduced the use of energy, including increased automobile fuel efficiency and improved mass transit, be an integral part of the Administration’s energy strategy. Such measures were largely absent from the proposal Carter presented Congress in March 1977 and continued to be overlooked as primacy on energy policy was given to the newly created Department of Energy.

In spite of these setbacks, Adams had his successes. He reorganized the department, another Carter Administration priority, and was regarded as a good administrator. He disposed of several controversial issues left over from the Ford Administration, most notably that of airbags in passenger cars. Early in his tenure Adams scrapped the demonstration program devised by his predecessor and ordered that by model year 1984 all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. must include passive restraints (motorized seat belts or airbags). Congressional efforts to veto Adams’ order proved unsuccessful. Adams also raised fuel efficiency standards and challenged American automakers to reinvent the car to make it more socially responsible and environmentally friendly.

Adams pushed the Department of Transportation in the area of affirmative action by requiring grant recipients to include measures that promoted minority businesses and by establishing the Minority Business Resource Center. Adams also proposed regulations mandating that federally funded transportation facilities and programs be accessible to all, regardless of physical limitation.

Adams resigned his cabinet position in July 1979 as part of a Cabinet shakeup by the Carter Administration. While Adams and the Administration had policy differences, Adams and the White House were also in conflict over the hiring of top departmental aides. In addition, Adams felt his access to the President was unduly hampered by White House aides. After his resignation Adams entered into private practice with the Washington office of a Seattle law firm working on transportation and international trade issues.

In 1985 Adams signaled his interest in winning the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Slade Gorton in the 1986 election. (An earlier campaign for the Senate in 1976 was aborted when Henry M. Jackson, whom Adams hoped to succeed, pulled out of the Presidential race.) Although given little chance of beating the incumbent after a long absence from public office and from Washington State, he was able to keep other prominent Democratic challengers out of the race. During the campaign he made issues of Gorton’s vote to confirm Daniel Manion, a controversial Reagan Administration judicial nominee, and the Reagan Administration’s decision to name the Hanford Nuclear Reservation as one of three possible sites for a high-level nuclear waste dump. Adams surprised political pundits with a strong showing in the September open primary, which places both candidates together on the ballot. He went on to upset Gorton in the general election.

As a freshman Senator Adams was appointed to the Senate’s Committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Foreign Relations; Labor and Human Relations; and Rules. In 1989, Adams took a seat on the Appropriations Committee and left the Commerce and Foreign Relations Committees. He maintained a consistently liberal record, opposing the Reagan and Bush Administrations most notably in foreign policy, environmental and social matters.

Adams fought to protect Congressional authority in the foreign policy arena. He was a vocal critic of the Reagan Administration’s proposal to provide U.S. naval escorts to Kuwaiti oil tankers sailing in the Persian Gulf, where the tankers were the targets of attack in the Iran-Iraq conflict. He argued that invoking the War Powers Act would provide the necessary debate over the United States’ deepening involvement in the Persian Gulf region. He sat on the special War Powers Subcommittee established by the Foreign Relations Committee to consider the issue. A series of bills, resolutions and amendments sponsored by Adams and his allies was ultimately unsuccessful in invoking the War Powers Act. However, his skillful legislative maneuvering forced a compromise and full debate of the policy. He continued to push for a greater Congressional role when he urged President George Bush to seek “explicit authorization” from Congress before launching an attack on Iraq in retaliation for its invasion of Kuwait. Adams was also a consistent opponent of aid to the Nicaraguan Contras and the Salvadoran military.

On environmental matters, Adams was closely aligned with conservationists. The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was a central topic of Adams’ Senate campaign, and it remained a focus of Adams’ activities in the Senate. He continued to fight the Department of Energy’s consideration of the site as a nuclear waste repository, and he opposed continued production of nuclear weapons at the Hanford site. He advocated monies be spent on clean up and diversification of the Tri-Cities economy.

In the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound Adams introduced legislation that would ban single-hulled oil tankers from Puget Sound and impose spill containment and contingency planning requirements. In the heated debate over the Pacific Northwest’s old growth forests, Adams was a leading advocate of forest preservation. He opposed exports of logs from federal lands and encouraged economic diversification of timber-dependent communities.

Adams used his position on the Senate Appropriate Committee to support many Washington State projects. As Chairman of the Committee’s Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, Adams drew on his experience as chair of the House District Committee and continued to advocate for greater self-determination for the District’s citizens.

Adams’s work on health care focused on issues related to women and seniors. He was a staunch advocate of abortion rights and a leading supporter of the Women’s Health Equity Act. As Chairman of the Aging Subcommittee of the Labor and Human Relations Committee in 1991-92, Adams highlighted the health problems of older Americans. He also used his seat on the Appropriations Committee to fight for increased funding for research for cancer and AIDS.

In March 1992, shortly after Adams launched his reelection campaign, the Seattle Times published a front-page story in which several unnamed women accused Adams of sexual misconduct over a period of twenty years. At an emotional news conference that same day, Adams angrily denied the allegations, but announced his decision to suspend his reelection campaign. At the conclusion of his term, he retired from public life. After a long struggle with Parkinson's disease, he died at his home in Stevensville, Maryland in September 2004.

From the guide to the Brock Adams papers, 1947-1993, 1965-1992, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

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Subjects:

  • Political parades and rallies
  • Award presentations--United States--Photographs
  • Campaign speeches--Photographs
  • Lawyers--Washington (State)--Archives
  • Politicians--United States--Photographs
  • Speeches, addresses, etc.--Photographs
  • Women--Health and hygiene--United States
  • Pressure groups
  • Advertising, political
  • Students--Photographs
  • Fund raising--United States--Photographs
  • Legislators--United States--Archives
  • Political parades and rallies--United States--Photographs
  • Political conventions--Photographs
  • Award presentations--Photographs
  • Political candidates--Photographs
  • Constituents
  • Women--Health and hygiene
  • Pressure groups--United States
  • Political Campaigns
  • Legislative hearings--Photographs
  • Legislators--Photographs
  • Receptions
  • Politicians--Photographs
  • Legislators--United States--Photographs
  • Legislators--United States
  • Campaign speeches--United States--Photographs
  • Meetings--Photographs
  • Legislative hearings--United States--Photographs
  • Meetings--United States--Photographs
  • Lawyers--Washington (State)
  • Receptions--United States--Photographs
  • Political candidates--United States--Photographs
  • Political conventions--United States--Photographs
  • Fund raising--Photographs
  • Television advertising
  • Constituents--United States--Photographs

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Seattle (Wash.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Seattle (Wash.) (as recorded)
  • Washington (State) (as recorded)
  • Washington (State) (as recorded)