The Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University. It has been awarded since 1962 to fewer than 250 of Texas A&M’s 425,000 former students. This award recognizes Aggies who have achieved excellence in their chosen professions and made meaningful contributions to Texas A&M University and their local communities. This coming October, LTC Edward V. Adams '29, will posthumously receive this well-deserved honor.
There have been many Directors of the Fighting Texas Aggie Band who have each in their own way contributed to the success of this organization. Holick, Dunn, Haney, and Toler are legends among many former Band members, but only one former director can be nominated for this award because he is the only one who is a graduate of Texas A&M. LTC E. V. Adams graduated in 1929 with a BA in English, and then subsequently earned an MA in the early 1930's. After a successful career as a high school English teacher and band director, Col. Adams was selected by Col. Dunn in 1946 to become the director of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band.
For the next 26 years, Col. Adams was the driving force behind and in front of the A&M Band. Many of the complex maneuvers and drills that still awe half-time audiences today were a product of Col. Adams’ fertile imagination and creativity. He also set a standard for excellence and perfection that endures to the present time. As Colonel Joe T. Haney said when he took over from Col. Adams: “My job is not to build up the Band. It’s there, through the untiring, and dedicated efforts of Colonel Adams. My job is to keep it at that exceptional level.” No wonder Colonel Adams carried the unofficial title of “Dean of the Southwest Conference Band Directors.”
However, what is more amazing is that for most of his tenure at Texas A&M Col. Adams had no help other than a student assistant and the many student leaders whom he mentored and developed. Not often did one see the kind, understanding man that dwelled within his uniform -certainly seldom in public settings. But have something happen to one of his Bandsmen, he would work with the person and his outfit leadership to resolve the issue. Or should a Bandsman come to the Colonel for advice, his door would be open. He did not change his standards, yet he helped each of us find our way forward. And it was not lost on any Bandsman that respect, dignity and integrity were of the highest calling when dealing with others. Another quiet learning lesson was how the Colonel revered and paid such respect to Mrs. Adams who was such a lady - we quickly grasped that a relationship like that was one of life’s true goals. His message was clear in how he conducted himself: There were no short cuts in life but when you knew where you were going and what needed to be done, then hard work and persistence could carry you.
For one of the Colonel’s drill assistants, John Focke ’69, the telling tale of all those hours spent with the Colonel in the fourth stoop window overseeing band drill came when the Colonel called him into his office for his farewell words to the graduating senior, who was on his way to medical school. John’s most fervent wish was to march with the Aggie Band as his father had. But a childhood paralysis had left him in need of a walking cane to get around. The Colonel had seen to it that John had the opportunity to work with Emil Mamaliga, the Aggie football strength coach, to try to strengthen his legs enough that he could march with the band. But it was not to be. The Colonel said to John: “You, Mr. Focke, have been an asset to me, the Aggie Band, and most of all to yourself! Good Luck in the future. Now, get to class before I get a call wanting to know why you were late!” It was no surprise that the Colonel was there when John graduated from UT-Houston Medical School. And we each have our own personal stories to tell about this wonderful, inspirational leader of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.
The nomination of Col. Adams received tremendous support from former students, and former Band members. This support sprang from an initiative spearheaded by Jim Hawthorne '71 to garner support from several classes from the late 60's and early '70s. Specifically, and in addition to numerous individual letters of support, the Classes of 1971, 1970, 1969, 1968, 1966, and 1949 submitted letters of recommendation in which virtually all of the living members participated.
The TABA Board would like to express our appreciation to Jim Hawthorne ‘71 and others who helped in the effort to ensure that this man receive this long overdue recognition from a University and organization to which he dedicated his life.
Col. Adams will be recognized by the Association of Former Students during the Distinguished Alumni Gala to be held Friday, October 2, 2015 at Reed Arena on the Texas A&M campus. For more information including how to register for the gala, please visit the Distinguished Alumni Gala website at www.aggienetwork.com/distinguishedalumnigala/
* * *
Reader Submitted Stories about LTC. E.V. Adams:
"Col. Adams had a reputation for being rather crusty. That reputation must have permeated the Trigon as well, where the 'bulls' would be sure not to get crosswise with him.
In Spring 1969, the Army ROTC cadets were preparing for the annual Army inspection. One of the events that was always part of that inspection was a full review on the drill field in front of the MSC. The day before that review was to occur, LTC Baine, assistant Commandant, was in charge of a practice review with all unit commanders and guidon bearers. As a drum major for the Aggie Band, I was part of that practice, but Col. Adams could not attend.
At one point during the practice, Col. Baine decided that some corrective 'instruction' was needed, and called all the unit commanders together in front of the reviewing stand where he could cover some of the finer points of how a review was supposed to be conducted. Every time he talked about something he needed a brigade or battalion to do, he immediately turned to us drum majors and almost apologized. He made it clear that we could pretty much ignore everything he was saying because we were supposed to do whatever it was that Col. Adams had told us.
The truth was that Col. Adams had not really told us anything specific about this review - something we never admitted - but his reputation created a shield for us drum majors. The last thing that Col. Baine wanted at that time was to get on the wrong side of Col. Adams, in spite of their being the same rank."
- Larry Lipke '69
"I had the Privilege of being in the Aggie band from 1957-1960 and marching under the leadership of Colonel Adams. Being in the Aggie Band was one of the highlights of my time at A&M and I always enjoyed being in the Band and the comradeship of the Band members. The fact that the Band was a great outfit and a great Institution was an ongoing tribute to Colonel Adams. While he usually 'soft pedaled' his role, he made certain that the Band maintained its standards and excellence not only as a musical organization but also as an 'outfit' and as a culture that would help us all build our character and our future. I am delighted to see that this award is being given to Colonel Adams.
I also had the privilege of being in the Band at A&M Consolidated High School under Colonel Dunn, Colonel Adams predecessor. I can provide this brief note in support of Dunn, Adams and their successors in developing and continuing the excellence of the Aggie Band. I joined the Faculty of the University of Oklahoma Medical School in 1992 and have been going to OU Football games since. When the OU Band took (and currently takes) the field at half-time, a large number of the crowd heads for the exits. In 1992, A&M played OU for the first time in 40 years and the Aggie Band was there. As the first half ended, the rush to the exits began. The Aggie Band hit 'Recall' and everyone simply stopped and watched with their mouth open. No one left. When the OU Band took the field the rush to the exits resumed. Until A&M left the big 12 three years ago, people here (and sportswriters) always eagerly anticipated watching the Aggie Band march. There has been little change to the reception for the OU Band.
As we always said: WE NEVER LOST A HALFTIME. GIG-EM."
- Butch Couch '61
"Thanks very much for the newsletter. I am very proud of Col Adams receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award. He was my Band Director. Too bad he did not receive it while he was still alive. I remember him well and am pleased he was named to this honor. I will plan to be present in October when the awards are presented."
- Ray Holbrook '48
Below is my remembrance of that fateful early morning of 14 November 1954 and the following days:
Paul Gentry was the Consolidated Band CO, Fred Wilms was White Band CO, and I was Maroon Band CO (and Drum Major). It was Friday night of bonfire week, when perhaps a dozen or so p-heads from both Bands got together the plot, unbeknown to Fred or me. Pat Bell '57 lived on a farm and his father owned a pumper fire truck. He and the other conspirators had arranged to bring the fire truck to the campus and park it in the gravel parking lot at the south end of Dorm 11 (where the Evans Band Hall now stands).
About 4 AM that morning the conspirators put on the standard rain gear of the day (p-pots and ponchos), drove the fire truck up between Dorm 11 and Duncan Mess Hall, got their instruments and marched down the quad (then called the "New Area") playing "Texas Taps". The record shows that they were also playing the War Hymn, but I don't remember that.
When a bunch of the other cadets came out of the dorms with trash cans full of water for the anticipated water fight, the "conspirator band" broke and ran around the south end of Dorm 9. When the following cadets rounded the end of Dorm 9 they were met with a tremendous stream of water from the pumper!
At about that time Major Percy Goff (USAF) and the Cadet Officer of the Day (Boots, saber and all!) came running over from their Headquarter in Dorm 12 and were also baptized! There has since been some discussion of a water fight at the Bonfire Site on the main drill field (now called Simpson Drill Field), but I don't know or remember anything about that. What I do remember is the notice Fred and I got to appear in Col. Davis' office!
Col. Davis the Commandant was, as I remember him, a tall straight military man who was all business - all military and no foolishness. Col Adams sat in the corner of the office while Fred and I saluted, reported, and stood at attention while we got a good dressing down! As we left we were not certain whether we would be expelled or not! I still remember what Col. Davis said to us, the old military maxim "A Commander is responsible for everything his men do or fail to do!" I've never forgotten that to this day. Fortunately, neither Fred nor I were expelled!!!
Now for the rest of the story!!:
During our 50th class reunion, a bunch of us bandsmen and wives were having barbecue at a CS restaurant and I proceeded to recount the story for all. We all had a good laugh and then Lena Douphrate, wife of classmate Bill Douphrate, said, "But you don't know the rest of the story". And she proceeded to tell us that she was Col. Wilkins secretary at the time and heard it all. She recounted how after Fred and I left Col Davis' office, Col. Adams, Col. Wilkins, and Col. Davis had a great laugh expressing the sentiment that it was all "great bull"! So apparently Fred and I were unnecessarily fearful!.
Col. Adams was a great Aggie and a father figure to us all!
- Earl Pike '55
I wanted to submit this vivid memory I have of Col. Adams during a trip to Norman, OK for our 1950 game with the University of Oklahoma. I’ll do my best to narrate it as follows:
We boarded a specially chartered train in College Station late on Oct. 6 for the ride to Norman, OK and the 1950 football game with The University of Oklahoma on Oct. 7. The train was to haul the Texas Aggie Band, of which I was a Sophomore member, and any other cadets (we were all cadets then, except for WWII veterans studying on the GI bill) who wanted to go and could afford the modest ticket price. Upperclassmen got the best seats, of course...and we took what were left...and I do recall there being enough for everyone. Col. Adams, of course, was with us every step of the way. We all knew if anything went wrong, he would have our back!!! It was an all night ride...and we got there in time to get something to eat before game time.
And what a game it was!!! We had OU down 28 to 27 late in the 4th quarter, but they came from behind in the final 61 seconds to outscore us 34 to 28!!!! We were not depressed very long, though...because the OU sororities threw a big dance on the campus to which all us Aggies on the trip were invited. Those Sooner girls were great hostesses and despite the loss, we had a great time. We had to be at the train station in Norman at midnight in order to be back in Dallas the next morning because the Aggie Band was scheduled to play a concert at the State Fair late Sunday morning.
The train pulled into Union Station around 7:30 that morning and Col. Adams had the band gather around him on the station platform for instructions. He told us we’d walk over to the B&B Cafe...around the corner from the Adolphus Hotel and just a few short blocks away...where we would eat breakfast. I don’t know whether the B&B knew we were coming or not. But I happened to be within earshot when Col. Adams entered the front door and heard a typical example of the extremely dry wit for which the Colonel was well known. He went up to the man at the cash register and said “I have a group with me for breakfast.” “How many?” asked the cashier. “One-hundred-and-eighty” answered the straight-faced Col. Adams!! Well...the laughter could be heard out the door and down the street. But somehow the B&B met the challenge...we had a great breakfast...played the concert at the State Fair Grounds...got back to College Station that Sunday evening in time for classes the next morning. What a weekend!
- Roddy Peeples ‘53