Don Adams: Persistence in Politics

This blog post was written by Graduate Assistant Mikah Sauskojus, master’s student in History. 

When looking at the papers of a state politician, it is evident which legislative issues are close to their hearts.  These issues produce larger piles of paper than their counterparts, even if they remain a minority in the midst of the massive paper trail created by a legislative session.  In the case of Don Adams, who served in the Texas Senate from 1973-1977, one such issue was the reworking of pension programs for volunteer firemen’s groups.  While Adams cared for both professional and volunteer public safety workers, as can be seen in his efforts to pass multiple bills easing tax expenses for fire departments, his work with volunteer fire departments spanned the length of his career in office and highlights the value of perseverance in passing legislation.

In a thank you note to the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, Adams states “As you know, paid and volunteer fireman are my real and only cause in the Legislature.”

Adams’s first foray into the issue of fire department pensions occurred while he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives.  During the 62nd Session in 1971, he introduced a resolution to form a committee dedicated to studying the existing Volunteer Firemen’s Pension Plan for the State of Texas.  After his election to the Senate in 1972, he introduced a similar resolution for creating legislation which would make the pension fund for volunteer firefighters financially sound on a statewide level.  Both of these resolutions passed, and Adams’s work on the financial analyses from these committees contributed to his desire to introduce legislation rectifying flaws in the system.

The first of these bills was introduced in the 64th Session in 1975, but ultimately died in a subcommittee due to the conflicting interests of professional and volunteer firefighting groups.  In letters to members on both sides of the issue, Adams expressed disappointment over the tensions growing between the paid and volunteer factions and encouraged their leadership to foster unity in the interest of future reform efforts.[1]  This first defeat was followed by several bills proposed during the next session in 1977.  Adams introduced both SB 48 and SB 411 during the 65th session; after SB 48’s broad programs died in committee, Adams retooled the legislation to focus exclusively on departments composed of volunteer, unpaid members.  This last pension plan successfully passed both houses and was signed into law in May of 1977.  Nearly six years after he first introduced a resolution investigating the issue, Adams saw the firemen’s pension problem at least partially solved.  He introduced other legislation on behalf of urban and rural firefighters which were unsuccessful, but his persistence in this one issue highlights the work ethic and tenacity Adams brought to his time in office.

[1] Donald G. Adams papers, Accession #33, Baylor Collections of Political Materials, W. R. Poage Legislative Library, Baylor University.

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