Bidwell Adam

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Cayton Bidwell Adam, Sr.​

In office
January 16, 1928​ – January 19, 1932​
Governor Theodore Gilmore Bilbo​
Preceded by Dennis Murphree​
Succeeded by Dennis Murphree

Born January 12, 1894​
Mobile, Alabama, USA
Died December 20, 1982 (aged 88)
Resting place Southern Memorial Park in Biloxi, Mississippi​
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Edna Quick Adam (married 1920–1982, his death)​
Children All deceased:​

Cayton Bidwell Adam, Jr.
​ Robert Borden Adam, Sr.
​ Jack Capers Adam​

Emile J., Sr., and Mattie G. Capers Adam ​

Residence (1) Pass Christian, Harrison County, Mississippi

(2) Gulfport, Harrison County​, Mississippi

Alma mater Pass Christian High School​

Millsaps College​

Occupation Attorney

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Private
Battles/wars World War I

Cayton Bidwell Adam, Sr., known as Bidwell Adam (January 12, 1894 – December 20, 1982), was an attorney from Gulfport, Mississippi, who served as his state's 15th lieutenant governor from 1928 to 1932 during the last administration of segregationist demagogue Governor Theodore Gilmore Bilbo (1877–1947). Adam was a fiery old-school political orator who could stir up the Democratic party faithful though on at least two occasions, he endorsed Republican presidential nominees.

Family background

Cayton (some sources erroneously state his given name as "Clayton") Bidwell (his preferred name of address) Adam (some sources misspell his name as "Adams") was born in Mobile, Alabama, but reared on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at Pass Christian (pronounced CHRIS TEE ANN) east of New Orleans, Louisiana.[1] There his father, Emile J. Adam, Sr. (1864–1942), was for a time the mayor and also the editor of The Coastal Beacon, later the Tarpon-Beacon, the newspaper of western Harrison County. Adam's older brother, Emile J. Adam, Jr. (1891–1968), was a lawyer, alderman, and the city attorney for Pass Christian.[2] Adam's mother was the former Mattie G. Capers (1866–1954).[3]​ ​ Adam graduated from Pass Christian High School and then in 1913, at the age of nineteen, from Millsaps College in the state capital of Jackson. There he received legal training to pass the state bar examination. He served as a private in the United States Army in France during World War I. Adam practiced law in Gulfport for many years and served on the Mississippi Bar Commission.[1]

On February 25, 1920, he married the former Edna Quick (1900–1988), who was an alternate delegate to the 1928 Democratic National Convention, which met in Houston, Texas,to assemble the unsuccessful Smith-Robinson ticket.[4] The couple had three sons, Cayton Bidwell Adam, Jr. (1922–1963), Robert Borden Adam, Sr. (1925–1968), and Jack Capers Adam (1932–2007).[1]

In January 1968, Robert Adam, Sr., a lawyer and World War II veteran, and Robert's two daughters, Mary Canon "Nan" Adam (1949–1968) and Margaret "Peggy" Adam (1959–1968), perished in a house fire. Robert rescued his wife, Ann Bell Adam (1924–1968), but she died five months later.[5] Bidwell Adam's grandson, Robert B. "Robin" Adam, Jr. (1947–2001), a former long-term resident of California, died at the age of fifty-four in an automobile accident in Phoenix, Arizona.[6]

Jack Capers Adam, the youngest son of Bidwell and Edna Adam, was stricken with asthma as a boy and sent from Pass Christian to Phoenix, where he was educated at the Southern Arizona School for Boys and became thereafter an Episcopalian priest. He worked to establish St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Boulder City, Nevada, with financial help from such luminaries as the comedians Bob Hope and Jack Benny (1894–1974) and the newspaper publisher Hank Greenspun. Known as "Father Jack" he subsequently left the Episcopal Church because of his opposition to the ordination of women, a policy implemented in 1976. He then became a Roman Catholic. He relocated to Mesa, Arizona to operate a jewelry store and continued mostly anonymous contributions to St. Jude's Ranch and youth causes. He died three days before his 75th birthday and is interred at Boulder City Cemetery. Jack Adam was survived by his wife of fifty-seven years, Ranelle Adam, and a daughter, Nancy A. Porter, both of Boulder City. A second daughter as well as his two brothers predeceased him.[7]

Political life

While in his twenties, Adam was twice elected, the second time without opposition, to the Pass Christian City Council. In 1920 and 1924, he was elected to the Harrison County Commission. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1927, at the age of thirty-three, and served one four-year term. The office had been vacant for nine months when Adam filled it because Dennis Herron Murphree (1886–1949) of Calhoun County had succeeded to the governorship in March 1927, upon the death of Governor Henry Lewis Whitfield (1868–1927).[1]

During the 1963 gubernatorial race in Mississippi, Adam was the state Democratic chairman and hence a leading campaigner for his party nominees, Paul Burney Johnson, Jr.] (1916–1985), for governor and Carroll Gartin (1913–1966) for lieutenant governor. Though he lost his oldest son in the height of the election season, Adam seemed to become more enthusiastic when he campaigned for others than for himself. Johnson and Gartin faced the Republican challengers, respectively, Rubel Phillips of Corinth and Jackson, Mississippi, and Stanford Morse, Adam's fellow attorney in Gulfport. Phillips and Morse, both former Democratic elected officials, were the first to run for governor and lieutenant governor as Republicans in Mississippi since 1947, when George Lawson Sheldon (1870–1960) polled only 2.5 percent of the vote. Phillips was seeking to succeed Ross Robert Barnett (1898-1987), who joined Adam in speaking on behalf of Johnson and Gartin, whom Barnett had defeated in the 1959 Democratic gubernatorial primary. Morse hoped to succeed Paul Johnson, who was the departing lieutenant governor.[8]

Adam worked closely with Johnson in the campaign. He produced a letter written in October 1962 in which Phillips requested Adam's help in a potential 1963 Democratic primary campaign for governor. Johnson and Adam questioned Phillips' conservative loyalty; they noted that Phillips as the county clerk in Alcorn County from 1952 to 1956 had supervised the registration of more African-American voters than had been customarily undertaken in most other Mississippi counties at the time. They stressed Phillips' support in 1956 for Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, whom Adam and Johnson had also endorsed in the second race against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Phillips in a memorandum had called Stevenson "the only hope for the South."[9]

Adam questioned Morse's receiving of $250 per month (more than 2,000 in 2020 dollars) from the Harrison County Development Commission while also in the state Senate. Morse called Adam "the biggest liar in Mississippi." Morse said that his work with the development commission had been in an advisory capacity and claimed that he had been inadequately compensated for the services rendered.[10]​ At the time of his election as lieutenant governor, Adam had been known as "the young firebrand from the Coast." Republican state chairman Wirt Yerger, an insurance agent from Jackson, whom Adam called "Squirt" Yerger, remembers Adam as "an old-line, redneck Democrat who literally hated Republicans or the thought of any Republican in public office."[11]

Adam described candidate Paul Johnson as one who "towers like the giants of the forest above the man [Phillips] who is grazing in the pastures of filth." Adam predicted that the Democrats would give Phillips "the brass ring of political ingratitude that he so richly deserves and said that Phillips would be "buried in a political boneyard of forgotten men."[12] Upon Phillips' defeat, Adam showed his biting sense of humor when he telegraphed his Republican counterpart, Wirt Yerger, boasting that since the GOP had been "electrocuted, will you please advise the date and place you will deliver the funeral oration?"[13]​ ​ In 1964, Adam endorsed U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, rather than the victorious President Lyndon B. Johnson but had earlier criticized Goldwater for proposing the sale of the Tennessee Valley Authority to private developers. Because the TVA served northern Mississippi, Phillips also distanced himself from Goldwater's remarks. Adam called Goldwater "a true Republican where the dollar is involved" but not really a conservative as to "the social revolutions being forced by judicial edicts and bayonets at the hands of ruthless dictatorships", a reference to desegregation.[14]

Prior to his backing of Goldwater, who won Mississippi with 87 percent of the popular vote in 1964, Adam has earlier supported Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat presidential candidacy in [1948. Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, and the unpledged slate in 1960, which carried Mississippi's electoral votes, cast for U.S. Senator Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. (1887–1966), of Virginia. He also supported George Wallace of Alabama in 1968 in the third-party race against Richard M. Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. In 1972, however, he backed Nixon in the general election campaign against U.S. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota].

In later years, Rubel Phillips said that he and Adam "buried the hatchet and became warm friends," when they worked together on the same side in a lawsuit.[15] In 1967, Phillips ran again for governor, this time against U.S. Representative John Bell Williams (1918–1983). He modified many of the conservative stances of his 1963 race and positioned himself as a Moderate Republican who appealed to African Americans for support. Phillips polled some five thousand fewer votes in 1967 than he had in 1963, when he faced not just Paul Johnson but the firebrand rhetoric of Bidwell Adam.[16]


Adam died shortly before Christmas 1982 at the age of eighty-eight; his wife died six years later. He is interred with other family members, except for youngest son Jack C. Adam, at Southern Memorial Park in Biloxi, Mississippi. Adam lost five family members in 1968, a son and daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, and his brother.[17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 John H. Lang, History of Harrison County, Mississippi Dixie Press, 1935, p. 135.
  2. City of Pass Christian: The Inn at the Pass. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.
  3. Emile Adam, Sr.. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.
  4. Mrs. Bidwell Adam. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.
  5. Robert Borden Adam, Sr.. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.
  6. Robert B. Adam, Jr.. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.
  7. Jack Capers Adam (1932-2007). The Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.
  8. Billy Hathorn, "Challenging the Status Quo: Rubel Lex Phillips and the Mississippi Republican Party (1963-1967)," The Journal of Mississippi History XLVII, November 1985, No. 4, p. 242-243.
  9. "Challenging the Status Quo," pp. 243-244.
  10. "Challenging the Status Quo", p. 252.
  11. "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 255.
  12. "Challenging the Status Quo, p. 255.
  13. "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 257.
  14. "Challenging the Status Quo," pp. 254-255.
  15. "Challenging the Status Quo," p. 255.
  16. "Challenging the Status Quo," pp. 258-260.
  17. Cayton Bidwell Adam, Sr.. Retrieved on June 30, 2020.