Since her retirement as an educator in 1979, Fannie Phelps Adams’ light has continued to shine as a community activist and humanitarian. At the age of 92, she inspires future generations by giving back to the community as a volunteer with the Retired Senior Volunteer Food Co-Op Program. She “bags groceries for the elderly,” but allows her daughter to lift the bags.
Adams began her career as an educator in 1938 at Booker T. Washington Heights Elementary School. She later taught and served as guidance counselor, assistant principal and acting principal at Booker T. Washington High School, her alma mater, and as assistant principal at A.C. Flora High School.
As an activist and humanitarian, Adams’ lesson to youth and others is that supporting and improving one’s community are essential for progress and success. In the late 1970s, she was instrumental in the election of the first three black members of the Richland School District One Board of Commissioners in the board’s 96-year history.
Her honors include the Human Relations Award from the Richland County Education Association, the South Carolina Education Association and the National Education Association. She was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Richland One Hall of Fame in 2008. Also in 2008, a commemorative bench was unveiled in her honor at the University of South Carolina Education Museum’s pavilion. She founded the Palmetto Cemetery Association, served as a former director of the Wheeler Hill Neighborhood Association, former board member of Palmetto Richland Hospital and a charter member of the Palmetto Richland Children’s Hospital. Adams is also a member of the NAACP, Columbia branch of the National Association of University Women, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and the USC President’s Community Advisory Committee.
The daughter of Mary and James Phelps, Adams earned a Bachelor’s degree from Allen University, and Master’s from South Carolina State University. She and her late husband, David King Adams, have a daughter, Mary Suzette Adams-Jenkins, and a grandson, David Edward Adams.