|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from North Carolina's 12th district
November 4, 2014
|Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives|
from the 58th district
|Ralph C. Johnson|
May 27, 1946
High Point, North Carolina, U.S.
|Education||North Carolina A&T State University (BS, MS)|
Ohio State University (PhD)
Alma Shealey Adams (born May 27, 1946) is an American politician who represents North Carolina's 12th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. A Democrat, Adams served as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the state's 58th House district in Guilford County from her appointment in April 1994 until her election to Congress, being succeeded by Ralph C. Johnson. A college administrator and art professor from Greensboro, North Carolina, Adams is known for the many distinctive hats that she wears (she claims to own 900). Adams won the 2014 special election in North Carolina's 12th congressional district to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Mel Watt, thus becoming the 100th woman serving in the 113th Congress. She won election to a full two-year term at the same time.
Adams was born on May 27, 1946, in High Point, North Carolina. Her parents were Benjamin Shealey and the former Mattie Stokes. She graduated from West Side High School in Newark, New Jersey, in 1964. Adams received her B.S. degree in 1969 and her M.S. degree in 1972, both from North Carolina A&T University and both in Art Education. She continued her studies to receive her Ph.D. in Art Education/Multicultural Education from Ohio State University in 1981.
She was originally appointed to the North Carolina House District 26 seat in 1994 to replace Herman Gist, who died in office. The district is located in Guilford County and includes most of southeastern Greensboro. She had previously already announced that she was going to challenge Gist for that seat in the Democratic primary that year. After being appointed to the seat, Adams faced conservative businessman and retired engineer O. C. Stafford in the Democratic primary. Stafford was a perennial candidate who had run for various offices, sometimes as a Democrat and other times as a Republican. He previously had challenged Gist as a Republican in the 1992 general election. In 1994, running as a Democrat, he was defeated by Adams in the primary.
Adams went on to win a full term in the general election, beating Republican Roger G. Coffer. She faced a rematch with Stafford in the general elections of 1996 and 1998 when Stafford ran as a Republican. Adams won both elections. In 2000 Adams did not have an opponent in the Democratic primary; she defeated Republican real estate broker Jim Rumley in the general election.
In 2002, after redistricting, Adams' seat was changed from the 26th district to the 58th district. Her only challenger that year was Libertarian lawyer David Williams, who withdrew from the race in October because he was moving to Colorado. His name still appeared on the ballot, but Adams won with nearly 86% of the vote.
Adams has been challenged for her seat for many years by Republican legal assistant and party activist Olga Morgan Wright. Wright has run for the seat held by Adams in nearly every election since 2004. Adams defeated Wright and Libertarian challenger Walter Sperko with 66% of the vote in 2004. In the next election Adams had no competition in the primary; she defeated Wright in the general election 66%-34%. In 2008, the year that Barack Obama was elected president, Democratic voters had a high rate of participation, and Adams defeated Wright 71.35%-28.65%
In 2008, Adams was elected to a second term as chair of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus.
She was vice-chair of the Government Committee in the state House. Previously she was chair of the Appropriations Committee as well as vice-chair of the Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
In 2010, Adams was challenged in the Democratic primary by Ralph C. Johnson. She defeated Johnson with 76.56% of the vote. Adams next faced Republican Darin H. Thomas in the general election, beating him 63.15%-36.85%. In 2012, Adams did not have any primary opposition and defeated Olga Wright in the general election by an even wider margin than 2008, 79.86%-20.14%.
In April 2013, Mel Watt, the only congressman to have served the 12th District since its creation in 1993, was appointed as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Adams was one of the first to announce that if Watt were confirmed, she would run in the ensuing special election. Mel Watt was confirmed in December 2013. Adams formally filed paperwork to run in both the Democratic primary for a full two-year term in the 114th Congress and the special election which was held in November 2014 to fill the balance of Watt's 11th term. Adams was sworn in on November 12, 2014, to complete the remaining seven weeks of Watt's term. After the swearing-in, Adams became the 100th female member of the congressional class, beating the previous record of 99. Adams won re-election to the seat in 2016 and 2018.
Analysts thought that Adams was at a geographic disadvantage in the five-way primary for both the special and regular elections (held on the same day in November 2014). She is from Greensboro, but the bulk of the district's population is in Charlotte. However, with three Charlotteans in the race splitting that region's vote; Adams won both primaries with approximately 44 percent of the vote, a few thousand votes over the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. She faced Republican Vince Coakley, a former television and radio broadcaster from Matthews, in both the general and special elections, which were held on the same day. The 12th was a heavily Democratic district with a majority-black voting population and a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+26, and Adams was overwhelmingly favored in both the special and general election. She won both handily.
Adams is the second woman of color to represent North Carolina in the House. The first was Eva Clayton, who represented much of eastern North Carolina from 1992 to 2002.
A court-ordered redistricting in 2016 made the 12th somewhat more compact. It now comprised nearly all of Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte. Adams' home in Greensboro was drawn into the 13th district. Adams had already filed for a second full term, but announced she would move to Charlotte. She claims a home in Charlotte's Fourth Ward neighborhood owned by Dr. Mary Gaffney, one of her prominent supporters, as her official residence in the district. Both Gaffney and Adams maintain active voter registrations at that address. However, on May 31, WBTV in Charlotte reported that Adams filed campaign finance documents listing her longtime home in Greensboro as her residence, and also spends most weekends in her Greensboro home. The WBTV report also revealed that Adams had scrubbed all references to her service as a local official in Greensboro from her campaign website, though her biography on her campaign's Facebook page still contains references to that service. When a WBTV reporter approached Adams at her home in Greensboro, she backed out of her driveway and drove away and was later found hiding out in her car near the entrance to her neighborhood.[editorializing] When the reporter attempted to confront her, she drove away a second time. While members of Congress are only required to live in the state they represent, it has become a strong convention that they live in or close to the district they represent.
However, with seven Charlotteans splitting the vote, Adams won the 2016 Democratic primary with 42 percent. This all but assured her of a second full term; due to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's heavy swing to the Democrats in recent years, the reconfigured 12th is no less Democratic than its predecessor.
Adams has been a professor of art at Bennett College in Greensboro, as well as the director of the Steel Hall Art Gallery. In 1990, Adams helped co-found, with Eva Hamlin Miller, the African American Atelier, an organization established to advance awareness and appreciation for visual arts and cultures of African Americans.
She is the chairperson of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, which gives scholarships to students who are attending one of North Carolina's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
|North Carolina House of Representatives|
| Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 58th district
Ralph C. Johnson
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th congressional district
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority