Alton Augustus Adams, Jr.

The Memorial Service will be on Friday, September 20, 2019, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Estate Elizabeth, St. Thomas.  The first viewing will be at 9:00 a.m. in the morning, followed by Mass at 10:00 a.m., immediately followed by Interment at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cemetery.  

Alton Augustus Adams, Jr., aged 90 years, of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, died on September 8, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia.  Alton was a proud Virgin Islander, born November 8, 1928, on St. Thomas to Ella and Alton Adams, Sr.  He was the youngest of seven siblings and the only son.  

After attending Saints Peter and Paul Grammar School and the Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas, he graduated from the Landhaven Preparatory School in Camden, Maine.  He was one of the first black students to attend Notre Dame University after the school lifted its color ban; he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.  Alton later attended the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, at the University of Pittsburgh.  

After graduation Alton was employed as an engineer by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California.  He was instrumental in the design of the wing structure of the legendary U.S. Air Force Hercules military transport.  He later joined the Air Force and earned his wings as a pilot, flying for six years and received an Honorable Discharge at the rank of Captain.  

Alton returned to civilian life as a Project Engineer with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (now part of NASA), responsible for the design and inspection of airport tower facilities and equipment at airports in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New York.  Returning to the Virgin Islands, Alton worked in the Department of Public Works where he was eventually promoted to Assistant Commissioner in charge of engineering and maintenance of all Virgin Islands government facilities.  He became the first Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Port Authority in 1969 where his responsibilities included administering, managing and developing safety and operational protocols for the airports, marine and submarine base properties.  

In 1971 he established the firm of Alton A. Adams, Jr. and Associates, providing architectural, environmental and planning services.  Alton served on many boards and organizations including 32 years as a Member of the Magens Bay Authority board; two terms as President of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce; Organizer and Commander of the Virgin Islands Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol; and faculty member of the College (now University) of the Virgin Islands.  His professional affiliations included the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Professional Engineers and the American Association of Airport Executives.  He also received many recognitions over the years including Certificates of Appreciation from the Bureau of U. S. Customs and the American Legion. He was among the first group of Notre Dame Graduates presented with the “Black Notre Dame Exemplars”, a recognition that hung prominently and proudly on the wall in his home. 

Alton loved music, including all the classics and grand marching tunes.  He did not play an instrument though music was a fundamental part of his upbringing.  His father, Alton A. Adams, Sr., was a music composer and teacher and was the first African American bandmaster for the United States Navy.

Through Alton, Jr.’s hard work and advocacy, his father’s achievements are recognized in his own section of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Alton Jr. was very proud to attend the opening of the Museum in 2016 along with President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and many others.  

When Alton was a ninth-grader, he was advised that the fields of engineering and aviation were fields that were not pursued by Blacks. Proving them wrong he went on to have a successful career in both fields and he recently completed and published “The History of Aviation in the U.S. Virgin Islands”.  

Alton has long said that the most fortunate thing that ever happen to him was his marriage to his wife Patricia, who passed away on September 3, 2016.  They were married 60 years, three months and two days.  In their later years, Alton and Patricia lived at the Lenbrook Senior Community in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alton is survived by his three children, Alton Leon Adams; Gwendolyn Adams Norton and her husband Peter; and Patrick Adams and his wife Chandra; his grandchildren Satrice, Saevion and Siara; and his sister Althea and his many nieces and nephews of the Adams, Finch, Questel, Campbell, Watson, Andre, Francois and Benjamin families. 


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