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Frank T. Adams, May 19, 1934 - March 16, 2017.


Frank Adams' journey with the human race ended on Thursday, March 16, 2017. This charming, irascible visionary shared ideas for education and social and economic equality that have inspired people throughout the decades of his life. He is widely known for pioneering work in worker-owned cooperatives and the role of education in creating change. Born to a family rooted in Northern Maine, Frank grew up mostly in the South. In Edenton, North Carolina on his stepfather's farm, the workforce was predominantly poor and African American. His interaction with those farm workers contributed much to the formation of his regard for racial and economic equality that would influence the rest of his life. In 1958, Frank married Margaret Peeler Thompson, his lifelong partner whom he met while living in St. Petersburg, Florida. The couple moved to Virginia, where he worked for the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot. In 1964, they moved to Plainfield, Vermont where Frank completed a degree at the Goddard College Adult Degree Program and also taught. Before leaving Vermont, Frank completed a Masters Degree from Antioch-Putnam. In later years he received a Ph.D. from Walden University in Florida. From 1967-69, he directed the Virginia Council on Human Relations and was founder and director of the Frederick Douglas Fellowship in Journalism which provided funding for young African Americans studying journalism. 

Frank and Margaret came to Knoxville in 1969 to direct the Highlander Research and Education Center and worked with Myles Horton to write Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The Idea of Highlander, first published in 1975. While there, he and Margaret were instrumental in Highlander's move to New Market from a site in Knoxville on Riverside Drive. At Highlander, he became interested in worker-owned cooperatives and spent the rest of his life educating people and promoting the form of economic development where workers own and benefit from the business. Frank wrote and co-wrote a number of books and other publication including 'James A. Dombrowski: An American Heretic,' 1897-1983. 'To Know For Real: Royce S. Pitkin' and 'Goddard College' written with Ann Giles Benson. 'Putting Democracy to Work: A Practical Guide to Starting and Managing Worker-Owned Cooperatives with Gary Hansen,' published in 1987 and a second edition published in 1992. Frank and Richard Grossman wrote an important pamphlet, 'Taking Care of Business,' that was widely distributed with its publication in 1995, educating the country about the danger of corporations having legal personhood. In recent years, the family has lived close together in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Frank leaves his wife, Margaret Adams; daughter, Mary Thom Adams, her husband, George Reynolds and their son, Frank Pierce Reynolds and his son, Sam Adams, his wife, Frances Adams-O'Brien, and their daughter, Sarah Peeler Adams. Family friend John Stewart wrote so eloquently "Frank Adams was a true humanitarian who lived life to the fullest. Frank's focus and his commitment were to help the least among us in ways that would bring about sufficiency and lasting achievement. The value of Frank's life stands out so starkly in the midst of the turmoil of hate, greed, and ignorance that surrounds us. Better days can be reclaimed if we all hold fast to Frank's faith in the basic decency of people and if we strive to rekindle that decency.

A memorial service honoring Frank's life will be held at Highlander Center on May 13, 2017, at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Highlander. - See more at:

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