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Date of Issue: May 5, 2010

"Snooks" Adams was ‘finest kind’

By Nick Walter
Islander Reporter

W.H. “Snooks” Adams

He was unforgettable.

Whether W.H. “Snooks” Adams was unveiling his unique sense of humor in one of his lengthy, intriguing yarns or sharing his boundless knowledge of Anna Maria Island history, he had a knack of striking someone with something unforgettable.

Adams’ died April 27 at the age of 92. He was born April 24, 1917, in Cortez, a lifelong resident of Manatee County, and longtime resident of Holmes Beach. Adams served Holmes Beach as police chief from 1962-78.

More than 100 people showed up May 1 to CrossPointe Fellowship for Adams memorial service.

Mr. Adams survivors include wife Elizabeth of Holmes Beach; brothers Cleveland and wife Terry of Gardena, Calif., Clayton and wife Polly of Bradenton, C.D. (Jeannie) of Sebastian; sister Mable Hipp (Kenneth) of Sarasota; daughter Georgia Lee Jones and 10 grandchildren.

Adams got his nickname from his Aunt Gracie when he was 2 years old. Fanny Bryce was at the height of her comedic career and she did a routine with a character she named Baby Snooks. She did both voices. The voice of Baby Snooks was loud and so was the voice of Baby Snooks Adams. When Adams was a boy, he and his brother would visit their Aunt Sally and her husband Jack Moore.

Adams was a friend to Island children, originating a day in 1954 at the end of the school year just for kids, and continuing that tradition with the Anna Maria Island Privateers with Snooks Adams Kids Day. He recalled there were only 10 or 12 boys, two cases of Cokes and a couple pounds of hot dogs at the first Kid’s Day in Bradenton Beach.

Adams moved to Bradenton Beach in 1947 and later bought a home in Holmes Beach, where he retired from the Holmes Beach Police Department.

Adams and Leon Stafford started the first fire department in Bradenton Beach with Stafford as chief and Adams as assistant chief. Adams helped build the Bradenton Beach firehouse that is a volunteer-supported center today.

He worked for the Island Erosion Board and helped build the groins along the Gulf side of the Island.

In 1952, Bradenton Beach incorporated and Mayor Jack Jones appointed Stafford its first police chief and Adams as assistant chief.

In 1954, Adams joined the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and was the first undefined and only for a long time undefined patrol deputy dedicated to the Island.

“That guy was a pioneer,” said former Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells. “A one-man show, and a guy I really respected.”

Adams is credited with helping set up the first Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the county, just after World War II, and he was naval commander three times during the 1950s.

As a Cortez fisherman, Snooks figured his knowledge of the sea would help him in the Navy. “We all wanted to do our part,” said Snooks. “I wanted to get in and do what I could. I wasn’t looking to be a hero, but all my brothers and my friends were joining up.”

In 1956, Adams went to work for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “My job was to take care of the Island,” Adams told The Islander in 1999, when the new HBPD facility opened and was named in his honor.

From 1962-78, Adams was the Holmes Beach police chief. “I arrested people according to the way they acted or what they had done,” Adams said. “I always believed that when you did more harm than good by an arrest, you made a bad arrest. I still believe that.”

However, there were the times that required toughness. He was involved in three shootouts and was shot in one of them.

“He had a big influence on me,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said. “Even though he came from an extremely different era, from a different time in policing, his way with people was timeless.”

“He leaves a void in my life that will not be replaced,” said Gene Schaefer, who with his wife Dee is the concessionaire at the Manatee and Coquina beaches and longtime friends of Adams. “He is a very, very, very important memory and an individual for whom I had great respect and whose company I enjoyed. There aren’t that many to go around. He was one of those living people who are forever there.”

Schaefer said Adams was simply unforgettable.

“One thing he said to me that I’ve never forgotten, and has certainly come to pass, he said at least 25 years ago,” Schaefer said. “And this was during a conversation with some people who were complaining about some changes being proposed, and he said, ‘The Island is going to change whether we like it or not. And it’s not going to change the way we think it’s going to change. But if we don’t go along with the changes, we’re going to get left behind.’”

Many who knew Adams said he told it like it was.

Indeed, in a column printed in The Islander, Adams began, “I’m a little confused. Have been since voters decided commercial fishermen had to give up what their daddies and granddaddies taught ‘em, laying their nets and pulling in mullet to put groceries on the table. And now our Florida Supreme Court has decided the net ban amendment passed in 1994 is going to save Florida fisheries and make our waters well again. I say bull ----.”

Lake LaVista in Anna Maria didn’t open into Tampa Bay in the 1920s and was a brackish body of water filled with alligators and small tarpon, Snooks recalled.

“We’d swim with the alligators. They had plenty of food and wouldn’t bother us. There were little tarpon you could catch.”

Snooks was one of six brothers who served in the U.S. armed forces in World War II, four in the U.S. Navy and two in the Army. Snooks joined the Navy immediately after Pearl Harbor. His brother Cleveland was already in the Navy and was stationed at Pearl on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked.

Brothers Leon and William later joined the Navy, while Henry went into the Army. Brother Clyde joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was shot down overrecalled Adams.

“He belonged to a club of older gentlemen on the Island and they’d all go to local establishments everyday at 5 p.m. until they couldn’t drive anymore,” Whitmore said. “They’d go to the Sandbar, they’d go to Rotten Ralph’s, and Snooks used to buy beers for a dollar or 50 cents. The price of beer used to be real low, but when the prices went up, they kept the same low prices for Snooks all those years.”

Following his retirement, Snooks still liked to drive around town “on patrol” just to say “hi” to old friends. Germany, eventually becoming a prisoner of war.

In 1985 at the behest of then-Sen. Lawton Chiles, Congress recognized the Adams family of Cortez for its service during WWII with an official entry into the congressional record.

After the war, Adams returned to his roots in the family’s fishing business and got married.

In 1996, Adams was the 1996 Islander of the Year.

Former Holmes Beach mayor, now County Commissioner Carol Whitmore 

Luckily, one of his daily visits was to The Islander for a long while, and he took a liking to Mister Wizard, the cairn terrier who kept office hours.

They like to give compliments in Cortez by saying it’s the “finest kind,” and that surely describes Snooks Adams.

He will surely be missed.

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