RIP Al Adams, a Progressive Champion Who Fought to Merge the Raleigh and Wake School Systems | Triangulator | Indy Week

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RIP Al Adams, a Progressive Champion Who Fought to Merge the Raleigh and Wake School Systems

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Five-time Wake County legislator Joseph Allen Adams, eighty-five, received tributes from the likes of Governor Cooper and former governor Jim Hunt after his death Saturday.

Adams was hailed—accurately—as a lifetime progressive and as a lawyer who helped integrate the Wake County Bar Association, as well as for his work, along with five other Wake County state representatives, to pass a 1975 bill merging the Wake County and Raleigh school systems.

On Monday, another of the "Solid Six" recalled how they brought about the merger, even though Wake County residents had voted against it in a nonbinding resolution.

"We had a Raleigh city school system and a Wake County system," Wade Smith, seventy-nine, told the INDY. "We had a Raleigh school board and Wake County school board. As people moved out into the county, the Raleigh city schools were becoming segregated again. And the county, and especially the city leaders, were very concerned about it. And the African-American community was very worried about it."

Despite the political risk, after discussion with leaders from across the community, representatives Adams, Smith, Ruth Cook, Bill Creech, Bob Farmer, and Joe Johnson went all in. "We put the bill in and all hell broke loose," Smith said.

It passed and the systems merged, ensuring that city and county would get equitable funding and that desegregation measures could prevail, for the time being. Instead of the educational wasteland that emerged in some Southern cities, downtown Raleigh became home to schools sought after by students from across the county. Adams was key to that—and to many other moments in North Carolina history.

This article appeared in print with the headline "+Godspeed."

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