Standing 6 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 300 pounds, he had the voice of a tiger. Charles P. Adams was a force of nature who sometimes scared some faculty and students. As the first Grambling State University president, he contributed life, love, and history to the campus and Louisiana.
Born July 12, 1873 in West Baton Rouge, La., he was one of three sons. He had a dream to become one of the few educational leaders coming out of the south.
At 22, inspired by Booker T. Washington, he enrolled in Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he studied for six years. He met the love of is life, Martha Adams, marrying her a short time later.
During his tenure at Tuskeegee, Washington taught Adams the necessity of teaching Negroes skills for advancement.
“Charles was an admirer of Booker T. Washington. He thought he was a great man, and respected him greatly,” said Mildred Gallot, a 1959 Grambling State University alumna and the unofficial GSU historian. “Mr. Washington talked Charles out of going to law school at Howard University. Mr Washington told him he was needed to help his race by building and organizing this school.”
The Colored Industrial and Agricultural School founded by the North Louisiana Colored Agriculture Relief Association in August 1901 had a school faculty of three: Adams, as principal and teacher; his wife, Martha, as a home economics teacher who taught the young ladies of the community how to sew clothes, garden and build beds; and A.C. Welcher, a farmer instructor.
After five years, Adams moved the institution from Simsboro to Grambling, La., and renamed it North Louisiana Agricultural and Industrial School.
In 1928, after the school became known as a junior college, theschool began to award two-year professional certificates and diplomas.
In 1936, the curriculum emphasis shifted to rural teacher education. The first baccalaureate degree was awarded in elementary education in 1944.
“Grambling did need Charles P. Adams,” added Gallot, a former head of the history and geography department at the university. “Charles has brought this university from being a teacher institute to a multi-faceted university,” said Gallot, who has lived in Grambling for more than 50 years.