Walter Adams: in memoriam.
Walter Adams was born in Vienna on August 27, 1922, grew up in New York City, and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1942. He began graduate studies in economics at the University of Chicago (1942-43) but left for military duty in World War II where he served with heroic distinction. Adams took part in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, served as aide-de-camp to General Dager of 83rd Infantry Division, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. In 1945 he enrolled at Yale University and completed his doctoral degree two years later.
In 1947, Adams joined the faculty of Michigan State University as Assistant Professor of Economics. He retired in 1993 as Distinguished University Professor. In East Lansing, Adams began a career of antitrust scholarship from which he rarely swerved, save for publications about university governance, the brain drain, and international education. In 1969, he served as the acting President of Michigan State University, declining the petitions of 20,000 students and 950 faculty to continue in this role. In his view of the academic hierarchy, a return to the professorial ranks was a promotion, Adams announced.
As a classroom teacher, Adams was a skillful lecturer and feared user of the socratic method of pedagogy. Many Michigan State University graduates prided themselves as being "veterans" of "Econ 444," a course on private enterprise and government regulation that Adams made famous. Adams also was a devoted sports fan, known in the Big Ten for the advice and counsel he offered opposing teams from behind their bench. He regularly joined the Michigan State University Marching Band for its entrance into Spartan Stadium. So great was the affection for this dedicated and exuberant faculty fan that the band made Adams an honorary member.
A frequent testifier before Congressional committees, Adams eschewed opportunities to operate long-term inside the Beltway. He declined President Lyndon Johnson's importuning to head the International Trade Commission (then, the International Tariff Commission).
Adams was a gifted writer and also a skilled debater and raconteur. As a scholar, his initial outlets were journals. Among his best known articles are "The Role of Competition in the Regulated Industries" (American Economic Review, 1958), "Steel Imports and Vertical Oligopoly Power" with Joel Dirlam (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1966). With Robert F. Lanzillotti, Adams entered into a celebrated debate with George Stigler (and others) on the reality of administered prices and he engaged John Kenneth Galbraith in a debate on Galbraith's New Industrial State.
Adams' editorial leadership of The Structure of American Industry (now with James Brock) produced one of the most enduring volumes in economic literature, beginning in 1950 and now spanning nine editions. His book, Monopoly in America: The Government as Promoter (with Horace Gray, 1955) was a precursor to the deregulation movement.
Later in his career, with his former student James Brock, Adams wrote for a broader audience, with the publication of The Bigness Complex (1986) and Dangerous Pursuits: Mergers and Acquisitions in the Age of Wall Street (1989). The strand that ran through many of Adams' publications was the issue of economic power in a democratic society. For him, economics and policy were always intertwined.
Adams' involvement in the Southern Economic Association began in earnest when he became the Vernon F. Taylor Distinguished Professor of Economics at Trinity University. Adams taught at Trinity University every spring semester beginning in 1989, and he was a regular attendee and participant at SEA meetings. Adams was elected to the Vice President position in 1997.
Adams admired the economics of Henry Simons, the politics of Paul Douglas, the philosophy of John Dewey, and the jurisprudence of Louis Brandeis. But the manner in which Walter Adams combined all this was sui generis indeed. With his death, the economics profession in general, and the Southern Economic Association in particular, loses one of its most energetic, prolific, colorful, and articulate members.
Kenneth G. Elzinga University of Virginia
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|Title Annotation:||vice president of the Southern Economic Association|
|Author:||Elzinga, Kenneth G.|
|Publication:||Southern Economic Journal|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1999|
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