About 10 years ago, Judge J. Kent Adams and colleague Glenn Wilkerson jumped in Wilkerson's old, beat-up Cadillac at 6 a.m. The two community leaders drove to Austin with the goal of convincing the Senate Transportation Committee to designate Cypresswood Drive as a scenic district.
"Kent put on a magnificent performance in front of the committee," said Wilkerson, former head pastor at Cypress Creek Community Church. "He begged, he pleaded, he cajoled and admonished for 30 straight minutes. When he finished the committee gave him an ovation."
The committee chair told Adams it was the most inspiring speech he had ever heard regarding a road, Wilkerson said. However, Cypresswood Drive was a county road, not a state road, and the chair told Adams to take it up with the Harris County Commissioners Court.
"Kent did, and the entirety of Cypresswood Drive is now a beautiful scenic district," Wilkerson said.
Adams died in October after battling cancer. Friends and former co-workers remember Adams—justice of the peace for Harris County Precinct 4, Position 1 for the past 13 years—as a larger-than-life figure who had a huge effect on the Spring/Klein community, was a constant source of counsel and was dependable.
He was a founding member and the first president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Barbara Thomason said Adams distinguished himself by not just pushing children in the community through the public education system but by establishing relationships and programs to improve their lives.
"He started a program whereby young people—boys particularly—could be placed in Boy Scout troops as part of a their community service," Thomason said. "The program was very successful."
Wilkerson, president and founder of the children's nonprofit The Ark Group, also remembered Adams as a judge who cared very deeply about the well-being of kids in the community.
"He had the busiest juvenile docket of any court in the city of Houston," Wilkerson said. "In the state of Texas, [the docket had] over 6,000 kids annually, and instead of fining many of them, he would send them either to the Scouting program or to the ARK."
Thomason described Adams as a humorous character. She said the chamber would often ask him to speak as master of ceremony at various events.
"We recruited him a lot of times to pair up with [Precinct 4] Constable [Ron] Hickman, and they would conduct a gala auction where they'd dress up like the Blues Brothers," she said. "They would conduct our auction together and they played off each other very well."
The chamber has arranged for a bench to be placed at Collins Park, behind the courthouse in Adams' memory. Additionally, a golf tournament fundraiser has been named after him, the J. Kent Adams Chamber Chairman's Cup.
Adams was a catalyst for the community's evolution, Thomason said.
"He advocated for new infrastructure and road development," she said. "He advocated for youth, for right over wrong [and] for all those community entities that do work to support this community, including the chamber and many others. He and his wife, Pauline, were very active in a lot of nonprofit organizations that support this community. He is this community personified."
Former chamber president DeLora Wilkinson said when Adams served on the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, he influenced the many transportation related projects.
"He was a wonderful leader and a great man," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson worked closely with Adams for several years going back to her days as chamber president in the '90s when he was the chamber's attorney. She said she thought so highly of Adams, she introduced him to his future wife.
"I have nothing but praise for him," Wilkinson said. "I miss him. He was a lot of fun. He had a tremendous sense of humor, and he had a way of making everyone feel comfortable around him. He was really a wonderful human being, a good friend to all who knew him as well as a great family person."
Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, said she knew Adams and his wife well and also praised his contribution to the chamber.
"He was an honorable man," Harless said. "What you saw was what you [got]. There was no pretenses to him. He did a great job as the [justice of the peace], and we're certainly going to miss him."
Career of community service
- Served as presiding judge for Harris County Justice of the Peace Court for Precinct 4, Position 1 from 2001–14
- Founding member and first president of Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce
- Member of the College of the State Bar of Texas since 2005
- Board member for Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
- District Award of Merit by the Boy Scouts of America in 2004
- Received Service to Mankind Award from Northwest Sertoma Club in 2002
- Presented Community Leader of the Year Award by Commissioner Jerry Eversole in 2004
- Ron Hickman Scouting Ideals in Action Award