John B. “Jack” Adams, an expert in media law who led the school of journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill for a decade and was a professor there for more than a quarter-century, died Friday after a brief illness.
Adams, who was 95, was viewed as a mentor by many of his students and colleagues.
A member of the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame, Adams was a professor at UNC from 1958 to 1985 and was the journalism school’s dean from 1969 to 1979.
“He was a specialist in media law, libel and ethics and those sorts of issues and was considered a national figure in that specialty,” said Raleigh Mann, who was on the faculty of the journalism school for 22 years.
“I worked for a lot of bosses in my time,” said Mann, who is retired. “He is probably the best boss I ever had. Just a great man. Very supportive.”
Jan Yopp, a professor at the journalism school and dean of the Summer School for Academic Affairs at UNC, said Adams had a profound effect on many of his students – herself among them. She credited Adams with guiding her to a career first in journalism, at The Raleigh Times, and then in academia.
“He left such a legacy,” Yopp said. “Jack was always interested in you. He was a wonderful mentor. He gave me great advice.”
Tom Bowers, a retired faculty member and former associate and interim dean, said of Adams: “A lot of students cherish their memories of Jack... That extended to faculty members as well.
“Most people believe that they had a special relationship with Jack, because of the way he treated everybody,” Bowers said. “He had a twinkle in his eye when you were talking to him... He made you feel special.”
In 1979, the N.C. Press Association honored Adams with a life membership.
Born April 8, 1920, in Millville, N.J., he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and served 34 months in Europe during World War II. He participated in five campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge.
When the war ended he transferred to the U.S. Air Force. In 1980 he retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves.
He began his journalism career when, at the age of 31, he enrolled in the University of California at Berkeley, according to the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame. He graduated with highest honors in two years and then went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. There he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in journalism and mass communications.
Adams also was a reporter and editor at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison while he was a graduate student.
He joined the faculty at Michigan State University for a year before he moved to UNC-Chapel Hill in 1958.
In 1984 the University of Wisconsin honored him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. That same year he won UNC’s Tanner Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching.
Adams served as president of the American Association of Schools and Departments of Journalism in 1975.
After he retired in 1985, Adams remained in Chapel Hill with his wife, the former Polly Betts “P.B.” Goslin, where, according to UNC, “he was active in the Presidential Sports Fitness program, perfected his recipe for Irish soda bread, wrote short stories and family histories, studied genealogy and collected examples of early printing and illuminated manuscript pages.”
P.B. Adams, whom Jack Adams married in 1947, died in 2003.
Survivors include: his son, Mark Adams of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, and his wife, Kathryn, and their two children, Harrison and Jocelyn; and his daughter, Jane Adams Bohn of Westtown, Pennsylvania, and her husband, Nathan, and their daughter Avery.
A memorial service has been scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Ponder Auditorium at Croasdaile Village Retirement Community, 2700 Croasdaile Farm Parkway, Durham.