Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Dr. Samantha P. Adams, 1926-2012: Chiropractor led NAACP, TPS board

Dr. Samantha P. Adams, a retired chiropractor and a former Toledo school board member who accrued a record of firsts professionally and in community service, died Tuesday, her 86th birthday, in St. Luke's Hospital, Maumee.

She did not recover after a recent stroke, said her daughter, Cecelia Adams, a current Toledo Board of Education member and a retired school district administrator.

Dr. Adams was the first African-American woman certified by the Ohio State Medical Board as a chiropractor, and she opened her Toledo practice about 1950. In 1971, she was elected the 25th president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP -- the first woman in that post.

She was elected in 1977 to the Toledo school board, its first black woman, and she later became board president.

"Wherever mother was, she would rise to the top," her daughter said. "Any time you were around her, it was clear she was the smartest person in the room most of the time."

She was a volunteer in several civic groups, including the League of Women Voters.

Her achievements and friendship inspired other women.

"She really encouraged us, not only me but other young women, to aspire to do great things," said Billie Johnson, president and chief executive of the Area Office on Aging Northwestern Ohio, who got to know Dr. Adams more than 30 years ago. "She encouraged us to be committed to our community and to try to do good for others.

"She was a very strong woman, a very opinionated woman, who always said to me, 'Say what you mean and mean what you say.' "

Dr. Adams retired from her practice in the 1970s. She served a single four-year term on the school board.

She was a member of the Scott High School Hall of Fame and was honored by the Toledo branch of the NAACP for her service. In 2003, the African American Legacy Project named her a "legend." Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in 2009 presented her a Toledo Glass Key Award.

"Few people get a chance to be honored, period," Dr. Adams said as she received the award. "Even fewer get a chance to be honored in their own hometown. I am one of the few who had both, and I do thank you and God bless you."

In 2011, Dr. Adams received the Milestones award in the sciences from the YWCA of Greater Toledo.

She was born July 17, 1926, in Humboldt, Tenn., to the Reverend Motteller and Deeoder J. Porter. She was a month old when the family moved north in part to escape the segregated South.

They settled in Woodville, and her father worked in a lime plant. Dr. Adams was about 9 years old when he went to work at Champion Spark Plug, and the family moved to Toledo.

She was a 1944 graduate of Scott High and attended the University of Toledo before taking courses at what was then City College of New York. Her choice of profession was inspired by a chiropractor in Woodville who helped her sister. She was a graduate of the Chiropractic Institute of New York.

She opened her practice next door to the family home on Lincoln Avenue in a building shared with her late brother, Dr. Scott Porter, a dentist. Their parents lived down the street.

Dr. Adams was not quite 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds, but she could help patients in distress of any size. "She was strong," her daughter said. "With [chiropractic] adjustments, it's all in the leverage and the pivoting, and she knew how to do that. She enjoyed helping people get better without filling them up with a lot of medication."

Dr. Adams was the matriarch of the family musical group, the Adams Family Singers. Her children sang in the group -- as they did in the church her mother founded, New Hope Porter's Grove Pentecostal. Daughter Paula Adams Duckworth was pianist, singer, and arranger for the "musical narratives" constructed by Dr. Adams, who described her role as "talking singer." The group performed on television locally and at churches and community events. A highlight was a performance at an NAACP national convention of a 90-minute narrative, "Ode to Youth." The family's "Christmas Story in Song" was a perennial favorite.

In 1972, the family were guest artists with the Toledo Symphony in neighborhood concerts, during which Dr. Adams was narrator of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait."

The family group last performed in the early 1990s, when daughter Paula developed health problems.

Dr. Adams was married for 62 years to Paul L. Adams. He died July 14, 2005.

Surviving are her daughters, Cecelia Adams, Denise Adams Onyia, and Dr. Karen Adams Ferguson; son, James Lawrn Adams; sister, Glacie Reed; six grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Visitation will be from 4-6 p.m. today in the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home Chapel, followed by wake services at 6-8 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at noon Saturday in St. Paul AME Zion Church, where a family hour will begin at 11 a.m.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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