Patricia is the daughter of the late Rev. Dr. Alger L and Mrs. Jessie Adams of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, founders and publishers of The Westchester County Press, an African-American weekly still publishing after 80 years.
Patricia married briefly without issue. She pioneered Fortune 500 companies (IBM, First Boston, Arthur D. Little, Inc. and Digital Equipment Corporation) for 35 years moving up the corporate ranks as a human resources professional.
With approaching retirement, Patricia revisited a childhood challenge and at age 50, she enrolled in the New England Conservatory’s program for contemporary improvisation. In 1998, she traded her lucrative corporate career for that of full time jazz artist..
From legacy to leading by example
Her legacy begins in slavery.
. . . while work songs set the stage for the blues . . .
Patricia’s maternal great, great grandmother, Big Mama, born into the Southern slave system, lived in her own cottage at Indian Village Plantation, Louisiana.
When the plantation owner died, he willed Eugene P. Daniels, their son, a third of the family land. Eugene became a pecan farmer and on April 13, 1886 against the backdrop of civil war reconstruction, married Rebecca Jett. That union brought forth 9 children including Eva Daniels, Patricia’s maternal grandmother.
Eva graduated from what is now Bennett College and became an independent traveling beautician for Southern ladies.
Eva married a mechanic, Jesse Wells and they had one daughter, Jessie Margarita who, after attending Howard University, married newly ordained Episcopal minister Alger LeRoy Adams when they met in New York. He a seminarian, she was living at the YWCA while exploring Manhattan on roller skates.
Meanwhile, Fats Waller was busy composing Honeysuckle Rose.
Patricia’s paternal grandfather, Lemuel Hugo Adams, was born in slavery in Georgia under the threat that “if our mom has any more children by that white man, we’re going to kill it”.
Lemuel ended up in Nebraska where he became a barber in Omaha and married Lucille, the daughter of a full blood Sioux. They had 3 children, Gerald, Sylvia and Alger. Lucille eventually left the family to ‘pass’.
Patricia’s dad, Alger L. Adams and his siblings, grew up in Omaha Nebraska. Alger’s brains and determination led him to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Hobart College in 1932, the first African American graduate of that institution which awarded him an honorary doctorate in divinity in 1982.
Patricia’s journey begins in June 1941 when she was brought home from the hospital to the renowned 409 Edgecombe Avenue apartment building in Harlem, recently designated a city landmark because “from the 1930’s to the 50’s it was the address of choice for New York City’s Black elite”.
The Adams’ moved to the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and when Patricia was 5 the family bought a home overlooking the Hudson River in Hastings on Hudson, NY known for its liberal residents and outstanding school system.
The first day of school Patricia’s all-White classmates danced around her in the school yard chanting “Patti is a n-word”, Patti is a n-word” until a teacher came out to break it up and bustle everyone inside. Patricia went home and asked her mother, “Mommy, what’s a n*gg*r?” Jessie gathered her young daughter into her arms and explained. Alger said, “the next time someone calls you that, punch them in the nose”. Patricia followed this advice with alarming accuracy and her classmates settled down.
Seeing how socially isolated their daughter was Jessie networked with other parents who had children in similar circumstances and together they founded the Westchester Chapter of Jack and Jill Clubs of America, Inc., later an intercollegiate group and sponsored a cotillion with an invitation designed by family friend, Jacob Lawrence.
1951 – Duke Ellington composed Satin Doll
Rev. Adams built two churches in Westchester County, NY and in 1951, he and his wife Jessie worked side by side and shoulder to shoulder publishing The Westchester County Press devoted to African American news, issues and concerns.
“I remember the family sitting around our massive dining room table with a Royal manual typewriter in front of each of us, sometimes all three clacking simultaneously. Westchester County Press editorials and news were written about the March on Washington, national and local civil rights triumphs and challenges, church events, births and deaths, weddings and soirees of Westchester’s African American residents. Mom sold ads from the adjoining kitchen, holding the phone in one hand and stirring a pot of something delicious with the other. Those are the roots of the Westchester County Press.” Patricia Adams, proud daughter of founders, the late Rev. Dr. Alger L. Adams (1910-1992) and Mrs. Jessie Wells Adams (1914-1997).
Growing up in Hastings on Hudson was a privilege and a challenge as one of the few children of color in her school and graduating class. Patricia earned BS and MBA degrees and for the next 35 years moved through the human resources ranks of several Fortune 500 companies in the northeast until she traded the security of a steady paycheck for the uncertain life of an artist. Armed with writing skills honed from her youth and memories of those dining room table discussions about what works and doesn’t in advertising, marketing, accounting and general business, Patricia carved out a niche singing the tunes of Tin Pan Alley and Harlem renaissance. An entrepreneurial artist was born and by 1995, Patricia had a website and was doing her own music notation on computer.
Now in her 70’s, Patricia performs at venues in Boston and New York. The clear jewel among her venues is Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, MA where she first took center stage in 1999 and her band now plays a jazz brunch to standing room only every first Sunday since 2003. She follows in the footsteps of her entrepreneurial and community oriented ancestors who found inspiration from their passion and purpose in life.