Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Civil rights leader and long-time Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal church John Hurst Adams died on Wednesday at the age of 90.
His role throughout the Columbia community, and around the nation, played a major part in Civil Rights history.
"He was a theologian, he was a phenomenal teacher and preacher, he was a strong social justice activist," says Dr. Bobby Johnson, director of the Center for Civil Rights History at the University of South Carolina. "He understood the challenges and the dangers of Jim Crow segregation in Columbia and he very frequently talked about that."
The Columbia native grew up in the Historic Waverly Neighborhood, and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia.
James T. McLawhorn, director of the Columbia Urban League, says he had the ability to combine his work in the pulpit, with his work in social justice.
"Pastor or a minister or a religious leader, so often are confine to their own facility, but bishop Adams saw the community as part of his calling and part of his congregation," McLawhorn said.
His past of helping to lead the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was revived in 2000, as he was instrumental in organizing the first King Day at the Dome, leading to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the top of the Statehouse.
"It had been a symbol of hate," McLawhorn said. "So, he realized that if South Carolina was going to move collectively as a state, as one people, then we would have to remove the flag."
His legacy now lives on through his many mentees, both in the community and in the AME Church.
"He was a spiritual father, an unwavering friend," says Bishop Ronnie Brailsford. "He was just one of those persons that really took a great interest in people."
Bishop Brailsford was a pastor at the historic Bethel AME Church in Columbia before becoming a Bishop, where he presides over five countries in Africa.
"He was the model of Ebony excellence," says Pastor Adam China, from Adams Northeast AME Church. "We cannot be John Hurst Adams, there was only one, but we can take his legacy and allow it to guide us in moving forward, not only in not only serving God, but serving humanity as a whole."
Adams also served on the board of trustees for Allen University in Columbia, and founded the Congress of National Black Churches. He is survived by his wife, Dolly Adams.