“Marking Them That So Walk:” In Honor Of James W. Adams

By Randy Harshbarger

Brethren, by ye imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample” (Phil. 3:17). Taking to “heart Paul’s divine injunction to “mark” (“behold, watch, contemplate,” Vine, Vol. 3, p. 43), those faithful men who provide examples worthy of imitation, we use this opportunity to call attention to the life and work of James W. Adams. For fifty plus years, brother Adams has devoted his life and energies to the proclamation and defense of the Truth. His concern has ever been for the spiritual health and prosperity of God’s family. Such an example needs to be noted. Such I believe, will help encourage those who have lived during the same time and under some of the same circumstances as brother Adams; it will also help inspire younger preachers and younger Christians everywhere to press on faithfully in the Lord’s cause. Several years ago, Cecil Willis wrote an article, “Putting Old Preachers on the Shelf” (Truth Magazine, Vol. XVII, No. 5, pp. 3-6). Among other things, brother Willis pointed out the tendency of some brethren to reject certain preachers solely upon the basis of age. This in my judgment is a mistake. It is sad and alarming to hear some second and third generation preachers (and other Christians) deride and criticize those of the past. Faithful men who fought many battles for truth are rejected and their preaching is criticized as being out of date. With this attitude present in too many, I am afraid we are headed in the wrong direction. In brother Adams’ own words:

What churches of the Lord need is not technical experts to streamline their activities and oil the wheels of complicated organizational activity, but men thoroughly schooled in the gospel of Christ and dedicated to the salvation of the souls of eternity-bound men and women … Instead, give us more John the Baptists, schooled in the rude wilderness of study, prayer, and meditation, clothed in camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey, but animated by holy fire from off the altar of purity and truth (from Timberland Drive church of Christ bulletin, November 2, 1985).

Early Life

James Wallace Adams was born August 27, 1914, in Brawley, California. His parents were Felix A. and Mary Roberta (Mittie) Adams. In 1920 the family moved to Texas. Some of brother Adams’ ancestors were early settlers of Texas. His grandfather, R.L. Bates was a pioneer preacher of the gospel. Brother Adams graduated from high school at La Pryor, Texas (1931), and later attended Freed-Hardeman College, Henderson, Tennessee. Brother Adams obeyed the gospel in 1926. Being encouraged to preach by Walter Leamons, he preached his first sermon on December 31st, 1933. Dedicating himself to the Lord’s cause, he has never looked back. For over fifty years, James W. Adams has been preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. When brother Adams started his life’s work, he preached for several churches in the Hill country of Texas (Menard, Brady), but he considers Vivian, Louisiana, as his first located work.

James W. Adams was married to Gertrude Leamons of Grapeland, Texas, on July 30th, 1936. Brother and sister Adams have three children’, two daughters and a son. Jimmie Nell McLemore and her family live in San Augustine, Texas. Patricia Spivey resides in Lufkin, and Robert L. Adams lives in Humble, Texas. With great pride (but pardonable!), brother and sister Adams speak of their children and grandchildren often (especially the grandchildren!).

Brother Adams has done local work in the following places: Temple, Longview, Beaumont (twice), San Antonio, Baytown, Nacogdoches (twice), Huntington, Center, Henderson, Terrell (all in Texas); Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Paducah, Kentucky; Selmer, Tennessee; and Senatobia, Mississippi. As you can see, brother Adams has been primarily a “Texas” preacher. Meeting work has carried him into some twenty-five states. In 1975, he and Foy Vinson made a preaching trip to Italy. For many years the Pruett and Lobit church in Baytown, where brother Adams preached in the early 1970s, has supported preachers in Italy and Sicily. Brother Adams continues his interest in the work in Italy.

Retiring from local work in 1983, brother and sister Adams moved back to Lufkin. They are members of the Timberland Drive church of Christ. Of course, brother Adams hasn’t really retired. He continues to teach a Bible class at Timberland Drive and preaches when needed. At the present time he is driving every Sunday to Broaddus, Texas, to preach for the church there. Timberland Drive has had a two-preacher arrangement for some years, in which a younger man can work with an older, mature preacher, thus gaining much needed experience and instruction. Brother Adams helps with this program. What a great benefit to those who can learn from him!

As A Preacher and Writer Gospel Guardian

Others will look at the preaching and writing of James W. Adams in this special issue, but permit these few observations. Believing the printed page to be an effective medium for teaching vital truths of God’s word, brother Adams began writing for papers published by brethren in the mid 1930s. However, it was not until the mid 1940s that he stepped up his writing efforts. In fact it was at the insistence of Foy E. Wallace, Jr., that brother Adams began writing regularly for the Bible Banner, being being made an associate editor in 1947. While brother Adams has never sought controversy for its sake alone, neither has he ever turned away from any issue, when truth was at stake. Controversy has often been thrust upon him. Due to his keen intellect and diligent preparation he has addressed himself time and again, to live issues that have sought to destroy and harm the Lord’s church. Hence, his writings in The Bible Banner were of a controversial nature, dealing mainly with efforts of some to get the college into the budgets of churches, and premillennialism. Clear and precise in his writing (as in his preaching), brother Adams can get to the heart of a matter, and bring pertinent passages to bear on whatever subject he might be discussing.

Even now, brother Adams is working on a book dealing with hermeneutics. After many years of study, he is certainly able to write such a book. It will be a welcome addition to those who love the truth and desire to understand and apply it properly. Too, he is working on a devotional type book, that will contain short articles of an inspirational, reflective nature.

I have had the privilege of hearing brother Adams preach many times. I have many of his sermons on tape. After hearing him preach, you know you have heard a Bible-filled, true-to-life sermon. With little sympathy for watered down, soft-soap “sermonettes,” brother Adams is first and last a preacher of the gospel! His sermons are filled with Scripture after Scripture, properly used and applied. What an example to this generation of preachers!

A Personal Note

My friendship with brother Adams goes back some seventeen years. He performed the wedding ceremony when Marilyn and I got married. Since that time we have been in contact often. When I first started preaching (in Alto, Texas), brother Adams was living in Beaumont, but soon moved to Lufkin, and was editing The Gospel Guardian. I sought his advice and counsel many times. He was always willing to instruct, study with, and guide me in some decisions that had to be made, or some problems that often faced younger preachers. Bother Adam has always been willing to help younger men, just staring out as preachers, in spite of the immaturity displayed by some. For this I will ever be grateful.

James Adams is sometimes depicted as cold and aloof. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is a serious man, who carries himself with assurance and dignity. However, he appreciates the lighter side and good human as much as anyone. Of course, his humor is never coarse or out of place. And no, he doesn’t always wear a tie (but it would be alright if he did)! One day we went out fishing for catfish on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. It was time for lunch, I inquired about some soap to get the “stink bait” off my hands. Brother Adams replay was, “Go ahead and eat, and ask no question for conscience’s sake.” A man of the Book, even on the lake. I have heard brother Adams preach with great emotion, concerning the death of our Savior. With great tenderness I have heard him speak of days gone by, of former friends who have departed from the faith, and of fellow soldiers of the cross, who hand in hand fought valiantly in the Lord’s army. A few years ago, I listened for some three hours as he detailed the institutional controversy from beginning to present. It brings great pain to his heart to remember once faithful preachers who have turned away from the truth. All of this is my way of saying, that there is another side to James W. Adams that many perhaps have not seen. This is a shame.

I have been in brother and sister Adams’ home many times. I have always felt “at home” and have appreciated the warm hospitality extended to me. Sister Adams has ever been a source of strength and encouragement to brother Adams. This past July 30th, they celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. Their love for each other is strong and unspoken, but seen by all. Sister Adams has always encouraged me in my efforts to preach and I am thankful for her friendship and counsel.

When not in meetings or preaching elsewhere brother and sister Adams are at home at 1402 Robinwood Drive, Lufkin, Texas 75901. My prayer is for their continued good health and well being. While inadequate, I say thank you for your friendship, your life, your example.

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 23, pp. 712-713
December 3, 1987