Local stockbroker, philanthropist Philip Adams dies at 82

Philip Adams of J.C. Bradford & Co.
Philip Adams of J.C. Bradford & Co. Ledger-Enquirer file photo

Lifelong Columbus resident and local stockbroker Philip Adams was remembered Tuesday for his high ethical standards, family philanthropy and his willingness to serve in leadership roles for local non-profit organizations.

Adams died Monday afternoon at the University of Alabama-Birmingham hospital after a brief illness. He was 82.

A private burial will be held Thursday morning at Linwood Cemetery. A memorial service will follow at 2 p.m. at St. Luke United Methodist Church, with a visitation at the church after the service.


Adams is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sally; brothers George Adams, Ed Adams and William “Buster” Adams; one sister, Charlotte Adams Clark; three children, Philip Adams Jr. (wife Jenny), Emily Adams Blalock (husband Jim) and Lela Adams Campbell (husband Brian); and nine grandchildren.

Adams was in his 59th year as a Columbus stockbroker at the time of his death. After graduating from Auburn University in 1957 with an agricultural sciences degree, Adams went to work with his father, Georgia M. Adams, on the Alabama family farm along the Russell County-Barbour County line.

After about six months on the farm, Adams came back to Columbus and became a registered stock broker in May 1959.

“His goal was to get to 60 years,” said his son, Philip Adams Jr.

At the time of his death, Adams was the senior broker in Columbus, said Malon Wickham, his partner and friend.

“He was real proud of that,” Wickham said.

Wickham worked alongside Adams in the brokerage and securities business for more than three decades. Adams was a broker with Wells Fargo Advisors at the time of his death.

“He could keep everything in perspective,” Wickham said. “He had seen it all. Any time we were going through an up or down change, I would go to him because he had already done it.”

Asked how many dollars Adams handled as part of stock and financial transactions since the late 1950s, Wickham thought for a second.

“It had to be hundreds of millions,” Wickham said.

Before his recent illness, Adams was still working five days a week and showed no signs of slowing down, Wickham said.

“He absolutely loved it,” Wickham said. “Some people retire and go play golf, but not him. He wanted to come to work every single day.”

But it wasn’t just Adams’ business side that impressed Wickham — it was also his integrity.

“I do not know of anyone who had a higher standard of ethics than he did,” Wickham said.

Adams was the fourth of five children of George and Lillie Belle Kimbrough Adams. The family owned a large family farm in Nankipooh, a community on the northern edge of Muscogee County.

A 1953 graduate of Columbus High School, Philip Jr. said the farm was so far out of town his friends got there by train.

“The train would leave downtown and stop at Nankipooh and someone would go down to the station and pick them up and take them back to the farm for the weekend,” he said.

That land is now the heart of Columbus Park Crossing, the city’s largest retail area. The Geo. M. Adams Company — which was Adams, his older brothers George Adams Jr. and Ed Adams and their sister Charlotte Adams Clark — leased and sold the former farm land to developers starting in the 1990s and continuing through 2000.

While the farm is gone, the family farm house survived and Philip Adams was a critical player in repurposing the historic home.

The Adams family farm house is now located on nearly 20 acres off Weems Road across from Blanchard Elementary School. It is the centerpiece of Columbus Botanical Garden, a working garden and event center. The land the garden occupies was once part of the Adams farm.

The four Adams siblings donated money to complete the first phase of the project in 2002. Today, there is an ongoing $10 million capital campaign to improve and enhance the gardens.

In 2002, Philip Adams took great pride in the gardens during an on-site interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.

“It is going to be done and going to be done right,” he said at the time.

It has been, said longtime friend and retired Columbus banker Sam Wellborn, a supporter of the garden.

“Philip was a wonderful person in every respect,” Wellborn said. “I have had the honor of working with him on the Botanical Garden a lot over the years. That has been a wonderful gift to our city. And it was given by all of the family, but Philip was the leader of that gift.”

Philip Adams was aware and supportive of the capital campaign before his death, Wellborn said.

“We have started the Sally and Philip Adams vegetable garden there,” Wellborn said.

Adams played tennis as a student at Auburn University and continued his love for the game well into adulthood. He was a strong supporter of the local tennis community, Wickham said.

“His family were major contributors to the Cooper Creek Tennis Center and the Brookstone School tennis facility,” Wickham said. “He stepped up for those projects in a big way.”

Adams was active in a number of local organizations, including the Historic Columbus Foundation, Springer Opera House and the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley.

His leadership and advice were valuable, said Community Foundation Executive Director Betsy Covington.

“Philip was one of those quiet guys who kept things at a number of local nonprofits going the way that they should be going, especially with our finances and investments,” Covington said. “He was an excellent board member.”

Adams and his wife also have a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation.

Adams strongly believed in Historic Columbus Foundation’s mission and served on the Board for many years, as well as president from 2005-2007, said Executive Director Elizabeth Barker.

“He not only helped to shape how HCF looked at its financial future, but also how Historic Columbus would help shape Columbus’ future,” Barker said. “Philip was always the voice you wanted and needed at the table — he brought a vast knowledge, a sharp vision, and a great wit. We are all heartbroken and he will be deeply missed.”

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams