Colonel James Blackburn Adams

Our most remarkable husband and father passed away suddenly on the evening of April 25 at his home in Kerrville, Texas. Like many others of his generation, he lived a life that represented the best of America. He was kind, intelligent, humorous, hardworking, patient and loving, and he valued above everything, honesty, justice and integrity.

Jim Adams was born to Lynn and Florence Adams in Corsicana, Texas, in 1926. He was the youngest of three. His family lived through the Depression by dint of his father’s multiple jobs augmented by raising chickens and eggs behind their small house. Later, they moved to Mexia, Texas, where Jimmy studied, raised and rode horses, worked part time, learned to drive and made lifelong friends. 

In 1943 at the age of 17, he volunteered and after posting high enlistment test scores was recruited into the Army Specialized Training Program. He was assigned to LSU where he completed two semesters of engineering studies making the Dean’s List each time before the Army canceled the ASTP and assigned him to Japanese combat language training and active duty. His official report date was D-Day, June 6, 1944. After completing language training at Yale, he turned 18 and was sent to basic training at Ft. Hood. Afterwards, he was sent for additional language training at the University of Minnesota before boarding a troop ship for Japan where he had been assigned as Tech Sergeant to a combat unit. He was 5’6” tall and weighed 110 lbs. The war in Japan ended before he arrived and he spent almost two years in Tokyo as part of the U.S. occupying forces. 

After mustering out, he used the money he saved and the GI Bill to buy a car and obtain his law degree (LLB/JD) and then BA at Baylor. After graduation, he became the assistant prosecuting attorney in Grosbeck, Texas, where he narrowly escaped a courthouse shooting by an irate father in a child custody case. In 1951 with a campaign budget of $50, he successfully ran for the Texas Legislature and was elected — at the age of 24. One of his key legislative actions was to push through a bill to ban cash payouts from slot machines — a key business of organized crime throughout Texas at the time.

Having then decided to make his career in law enforcement, later in 1951 he resigned from the Legislature to accept an appointment to the FBI as Special Agent. Given Jim was only 5’6”, he did not meet the minimum height requirement for special agents, but upon review of his qualifications, Director Hoover issued a waiver to allow his hire. Over his 27 years with the Bureau, he served in various roles and locations attaining the position of associate director, the number two position in the FBI. He held key positions in the investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination, organized crime and cold war counter intelligence. After Watergate, because of his reputation for integrity, he was brought back to headquarters from the field specifically to identify and execute improvements throughout the Bureau. He also then spent 100s of hours testifying before congress during the Watergate investigation hearings. He received both the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. In 1978, he served for a short time as acting director. 

He retired from the FBI in 1979, becoming the executive director of the Criminal Justice Division of the Texas Governor’s Office, and then in 1980, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers — a job he particularly desired and cherished. He retired in 1987 — but continued for the rest of his life to talk about the wonderful, dedicated people he had the honor of working with in both the FBI and DPS. 

More importantly for his family, though, during his first posting to FBI headquarters in 1954, he met Ione Winistorfer, a very pretty and very intelligent young woman who was working in the Administrative Division. Over the next 65 years, he repeatedly called their marriage “the smartest decision he ever made.” Jim and Ione had three children: James Jr., Elizabeth and Martha Wolcheski, all three married and have children. The extended family has always remained close. 

After retirement, Jim and Ione finally built a small cabin in Pagosa Springs where they spent nearly every summer until only a year ago. Jim was a member of the Rotary and Ione volunteered at the library. They had been visiting since the late ‘70s when they were introduced to Pagosa by close friends. Pagosa has become an anchor for the family, as both the children and grandchildren now visit regularly and enjoy the friendship of their neighbors.

At his passing Jim leaves behind his wife, Ione; their children, along with spouses Debbie Adams and Frank Wolcheski; seven grandchildren (Katherine, James III, Nick, Kelsey, Chloe, Bridgitte and Blake); six great-grandchildren (Jaime, Lillian, Charlotte Jean, Evelyn and Ezra); nephews, nieces and, lastly, those close friends, who unlike him, have so far escaped the tragic inevitability of age. We miss him terribly and cannot yet imagine getting over the pain of his loss. 

Services will be scheduled at a later date.

Condolences may be sent at www.grimesfuneralchapels.com by selecting the “Send Condolences” link.

Arrangements are entrusted to Grimes Funeral Chapels of Kerrville, Texas.

This story was posted on April 30, 2020.