John Lester Adams, a long-time resident of Pinecrest, Florida, died May 13, 2022 at the age of 77. Mr. Adams was the Founder and President of John L. Adams & Co, and the subsidiary company, Florida Funding Publications. He was a grant writer and community advocate who dedicated his career to supporting community improvement initiatives by foundations, educational institutions, and city and county government entities throughout the state of Florida and nationally.
Mr. Adams was born in Boston on May 15, 1944, to Edith and Kipling Adams. After early years in LaGrange and Western Springs, IL, and then Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where his father established offices for General Radio, he graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury High School in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Mr. Adams went on to earn a degree in Biology from the University of Chicago in 1967. That same year he married Nancy Houghten, and both joined the Peace Corps. They served in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two years where Mr. Adams taught science in secondary schools. Upon returning to the US, Mr. Adams was recruited to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was stationed at the Miccosukee Indian Reservation in south Florida. In that role he was instrumental in the passage of the Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975, which authorized the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and other government agencies to enter into contracts with, and make grants directly to, federally recognized Indian tribes. This Act also enabled tribes to operate their own schools and to teach Native languages.
In 1976, Mr. Adams moved to Miami and launched Adams & Co, a grants consulting firm incorporated specifically to assist local governments and not-for-profit agencies. Recognizing the challenges faced by organizations committed to community development during a time of rapid population growth, particularly in a location with a uniquely fragile ecosystem, he initially focused on the South Florida community. As the company grew, he spearheaded national projects for clients from as far away as Puerto Rico and Maine. His work had a lasting impact in the communities he served, with over $450M in grants awarded to support economic and community development, historic preservation, cultural affairs, youth programs, and environmental preservation. Notable projects included a $9M grant awarded to the cities of Hialeah Gardens and Medley to improve water quality and protect the ecosystem of Biscayne Bay, a major environmental priority. He additionally secured $2.5M for Florida City for hurricane recovery and $3.3M for the City of Homestead, and more recently led a major initiative to acquire cutting-edge imaging equipment for the Neuroscience Centers of Florida and Florida International University. Florida Funding Publications, Inc, was incorporated in 1985 to provide additional resources for the not-for-profit community including the only comprehensive guide for foundations in Florda.
The importance of Mr. Adams’s work was recognized by accolades from the governor, state legislators, community leaders, and local officials – in 1984 the Mayor of Hialeah declared February 16 to be John L. Adams Day. Mr. Adams’s commitment to community development was also evident in the pro bono professional services he provided throughout his career, and the numerous leadership positions he held, including serving as the Board President of the South Dade branch of the YMCA, Chairman of the Building Committee at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and more recently, Chair of the Architecture Committee for the Holly-by-the-Sea Board in Navarre, Florida.
Mr. Adams is survived by his brother, Kipling Adams, Jr, his children, John G. Adams and Sarah F. Adams, three grandchildren, Lillian, Max and Leila, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. His family remembers him as a dedicated father and grandfather who prioritized all sporting and school events with his children and grandchildren. He enjoyed board and card games with chess and cribbage being among his favorites. He also organized weekly volleyball games for neighbors and friends, played on church softball teams, and was a fierce racquetball opponent. Though his competitive nature led to many victories over the years, his claim to never recall losing seemed slightly suspect. He loved to travel and planned ambitious family vacations every summer. Trained as a scientist at the University of Chicago, he was fascinated by relativity, cosmology, and the underpinnings of unified field theory. He was a big-hearted generous person who was deeply loved by his family. He will be missed by all who knew him. A memorial service will be held at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Pinecrest on July 2, 2022 at 10a, and will be streamed live online (standrewsmiami.org).
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