From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Adams, William Theodore

(born: February 29, 1912  -  died: December 13, 1991) 

When the second African American firehouse in Louisville, KY, opened in 1937, William Theodore Adams was among the first group of all men firefighters. In 1939, he was promoted to lieutenant, and in 1941, he became a captain. Adams would become the first African American put in charge of a predominantly white company in Louisville. He was named assistant chief in 1967 and was pinned with the major's insignia. He was named a Lieutenant colonel in 1970. William T. Adams retired from the Louisville Fire Department in 1974; he had served with the department for 36 years.

William T. Adams was born in Louisville, KY, the son of William Q. and Henrietta Duncan Adams. William T. Adams died in 1991 and is buried in the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

For more see B. M. Tyler, "William T. Adams (1912-1974): African-American firefighter, Louisville, Kentucky," Filson Club History Quarterly, vol. 73, issue 3, pp. 284-293; "False alarm is last call answered by replaced unit," The Courier-Journal, 09/27/1937, p.2; "Three fire department lieutenants promoted," The Courier-Journal, 10/05/1939, section 2, p.12; "Five lieutenants made captains of firemen," The Courier-Journal, 04/05/1941, p.2; "Adams Becomes Major: first Negro is named Assistant Fire Chief," The Courier-Journal, 06/22/1967, section B, pp.A12 & B1; "Lowry is appointed assistant fire chief," The Courier-Journal, 05/24/1974, p. 32; "Black firefighter William Adams dies at age 79," The Courier-Journal, 12/15/1991, p.B11; U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index (Ancestry); see William Theodore Adams at Find A Grave. See photo image of William T. Adams on p.46 in African-American Life in Louisville by B. M. Tyler [at Google Books].


Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Filson history quarterly (periodical)
NKAA Source: Courier-Journal [Louisville] (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)
NKAA Source: African-American life in Louisville

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Adams, William Theodore,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed February 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-02-18 18:56:46