Darrell Huckaby: T.K. Adams finally getting honor he deserves

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

I scoured the front page of my hometown paper Thursday morning, dreading what I might find. I wasn't in the mood for any more scandals or budget cuts or bad news of any sort. To my delight this headline met my eyes.

"Adams to give UGA school of music convocation address."

My first thought was "why is the president of the university giving the convocation address at the music school? Upon further examination I learned that the headline was not referring to Dr. Michael Adams. The orator at the May 10 assembly will be longtime Covington resident T. K. Adams.

Wow! Amazing! What a distinct honor!

I mean for the young people who will have the high privilege of hearing Mr. Adams's remarks. I have known Mr. Adams, you see, for almost forty years. Simply put, he is one of the finest men I have ever met and I am so blessed to be able to call him my friend and -- even though he was never aware of it -- my mentor.

I first became acquainted with him in 1974. I was a brand new graduate of the University of Georgia and beginning my career as an educator. I had come home to Newton County and had been assigned the task of teaching life science to seventh graders at R.L. Cousins Middle School.

If you are not aware of the history of education in our great state, it took about 16 or 17 years for Brown vs the Board of Education to take hold in Georgia. When I graduated from high school in 1970 we had token integration -- which meant about three dozen black kids went to Newton County High School. R.L. Cousins was the black school across town. By the time I had finished college, Cousins had become one of two middle schools in Newton County and T.K. Adams, who had been the band director at R.L. Cousins High School was the band director at Cousins Middle School.

Instead of leading a maroon-and-gold-wearing Wolverine high school band he was leading a blue-and-white-wearing Ram middle school band. Despite Jim Cobb's best efforts to raise my social awareness during my undergraduate days at Georgia, much of what Mr. Adams must have gone through in dealing with the segregation of the school system was completely lost on me.

All I knew was that I wanted to be the best teacher that had ever stood before a blackboard. I wanted to teach my students everything I knew. I did, too. It took me about three weeks. I still had 33 weeks of school left. There were many, many times during my first year in the classroom -- and the subsequent three years I would spend at Cousins -- that I turned to T.K. Adams for advice and guidance, and he never let me down. I would eventually come to realize that T.K. Adams never let anybody down.

He was one of the most positive people I had ever been around. He once told me that "No one can cause you to have a bad day if you aren't willing." He was soft-spoken, but demanding and accepted only the best from his students.

He was also one of the most humble and unpretentious men I have ever known. He and his wife Louise are two of the most gentle and loving and caring people I know. They have now been married for more than 50 years. Mr. Adams once told me that "The only thing I regret about marriage is that I wasn't born married."

Their son Tim -- T.K. Jr. -- was one of the most polite, intelligent and talented young men I had ever encountered. An excellent musician like his father, Adams Jr. has traveled the world playing percussion and served as principle timpanist for the Pittsburgh Sympathy for 15 years. He also taught at Carnegie-Mellon.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of Mr. T.K. Adams and his family. He has long been one of my heroes because of his positive attitude and gentle nature -- and not until I read the story under the headline in Thursday's hometown paper did I learn that my own hero and mentor had been denied admission to the University of Georgia because he was black.

Ten years later they would admit me. A school that would take me but reject T.K. Adams certainly needed to reassess their standards. Fortunately they have and T.K. Adams Jr. is currently the chair of the percussion department at UGA.

If anyone ever had a right to be bitter, it was T.K. Adams Sr., but he never wasted one minute of his life worrying about what he couldn't change. He bloomed where he was planted and made a major difference in thousands of people's lives. Mine was one of them. And now this year's graduating class of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music will get the opportunity to be touched by him, too.


Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.